Liberati’s 2nd-half goal difference as Springdale tops Bishop Canevin
The first goal always looms large in the WPIAL soccer playoffs, and that proved especially true given the defensive abilities of the Springdale and Bishop Canevin boys.
After a few missed opportunities from both teams, Springdale made its first score count.
Roman Liberati scored with 31 minutes, 31 seconds remaining, and No. 5 Springdale made it hold up for a 1-0 victory over No. 12 Bishop Canevin in a WPIAL Class A first-round game Monday night at Hampton’s Fridley Field. The Dynamos advanced to the quarterfinals, where they’ll face No. 4 Sewickley Academy on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
“I told my guys at halftime whoever scored first was going to win this game because it was a defensive game,” Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said. “We were lucky to score first, and then we can hold them.”
That’s an understatement, as Springdale (14-2-1), last season’s WPIAL runner-up, registered its seventh consecutive shutout and 13th of the season.
With Division I recruit Mike Zolnierczyk in goal and a strong defense led by center back Matt Taliani and midfielders Alex Barch and Mike Mitchell, the Dynamos allowed five goals all season and clamped down on Bishop Canevin after Liberati’s goal.
“The four we have in the back obviously do a great job defensively, but the midfielders, Mike Mitch and Alex Barch, help out a ton coming back here,” said Zolnierczyk, who had four saves. ”(Forward Ephraim Duku) works his butt off up there and keeps the ball up there as long as he can and keeps it out of our end. Everyone comes together, and it’s a team effort.”
Bishop Canevin and Springdale met in the season opener, also a 1-0 Springdale victory.
The rematch played out similarly, with the Dynamos finally coming through after a defensive stalemate.
Sammy Rzeszotarski took a corner kick in the ninth minute of the second half and booted it to Duku in the box. A loose ball eventually came to Liberati, who put his shot past Canevin keeper Jared Kindle.
“We’ve been practicing corner kicks all season long, and I’m usually the guy to come up,” said Liberati, a sophomore. “I just ended up moving into the right space at the right time, and I just did what we’re taught to do, which is put the ball in the back of the net.
“My first instinct is just to go to the ball and do whatever I can to make sure we get the goal.”
That score came after both teams missed on strong opportunities.
Late in the first half, Zolnierczyk leaped to tip a long Coulton Gaitens free kick. The ball deflected off Zolnierczyk’s hand, hit the football crossbar and went behind the net. Springdale’s August Tabacheck missed just wide of the left post after taking a feed from Mike Mitchell a few minutes later.
About a minute before Liberati broke the scoreless tie, Bishop Canevin (9-7-2) had another golden chance, but Brandyn Brock’s shot off a Jarod Witwicki cross veered just wide.
“I can’t fault my boys for how hard they played,” Bishop Canevin coach Albert Gestiehr said. “It’s just you have a couple chances (on) clear-cut opportunities in a game like this, you’ve got to put them away. And we didn’t.”
Kindle made three saves for Bishop Canevin, which allowed 19 goals all season but was held to one goal or fewer 14 times in 18 games.
Springdale, meanwhile, will look to continue its own defensive dominance against Sewickley Academy, which scored five goals in its first-round win over Monessen.
“Overall, I don’t think we played 100 percent our game,” Sanchez said. “But a win is a win, however we can get it, and another shutout.”