SPORTS>> North Pulaski teams fall
Leader sports editor
Both the North Pulaski girls and boys soccer teams had insult added to injury in first-round playoff losses at the 5A state soccer tournament at Burns Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Falcons fell 4-0 to Greenwood, losing top scoring Claire Crews to a severe ankle injury late in the first half. The boys took on second-seeded Harrison — winners of state titles from 2000-06 — lost goalkeeper Matt Ingersoll early, and lost the game, 7-0.
“[Harrison] could put 11 6-footers out there,” said North Pulaski boys coach Tony Buzzitta, whose Falcons finished 8-9. “They were just bigger and faster than us. But I’m proud of our team. We doubled our victories from last year, and we’re still a young team.”
The Falcons fell behind quickly 1-0 and trailed 3-0 29 minutes into the contest. Ingersoll was hurt two minutes later, when he leaped to make a save and hit his head on the post. He collapsed in a heap and didn’t move for several frightening seconds. But he was able to return to the game in the second half, though not in goal.
Dylan Gililland came on in relief in net and immediately made a couple of spectacular saves back to back, the second one on a dive and cover up. He shut out the Goblins over the final nine minutes of the half.
Meanwhile, the Falcons mounted their only promising attack when Greg West dribbled through three defenders. But he was unable to get off a shot.
The three Harrison goals in the first half were all rebound goals, but the Goblins scored a couple of outstanding individual goals over the first six minutes of the second half to go up 5-0 and put it away.
West got a direct kick from out in front of the net, but the Harrison keeper was there to stop it.
“I didn’t have a lot of subs who weren’t inexperienced or real young,” Buzzitta said. “It was really tough because some of our defenders needed a break out there because of Harrsison’s speed and size.”
West, Jingxiao Lu and Tyler Gilbert are graduating, but a lot of starters will be returning.
“The biggest problem will be goal scoring,” said Buzzitta of losing West, who recorded 29 goals this season. “The positive is the guys realize they can’t rely on him next year and will have to be more aggressive.”
Buzzitta said the season was really two seasons — pre- and post-spring break.
“We never played consistently after spring break,” he said. “We don’t have any indoor facilities so [with all the rain] we didn’t get to practice for almost a month. That really hurt our conditioning and our ball-handling.”
The No.2 seed Lady Falcons also got off to a poor start, falling behind 1-0 within the first five minutes. It was 2-0 at halftime, despite some nifty saves by North Pulaski freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Waylan and some inspired defensive play by defenders Meagan Delao and Ellen Weld.
“Jennifer and Ellen were awesome today,” said North Pulaski girls coach Christie Delao, who is retiring after this season. “And Jennifer is just a freshman so North Pulaski will have her for the next three years.”
Waylan made a slew of early saves in the second half before the Lady Bulldogs broke through to make it 3-0 after a corner kick 27 minutes into the second half. They added their final goal four minutes later.
“Our girls got tired,” Delao said. “Greenwood was fast and they got even more aggressive in the second half. I was thinking, ‘Can’t you give us a break? You’ve already hurt one of our players.’ But that didn’t happen.
“We weren’t really going to the ball today. [Greenwood] won most of the battles.”
Crews was hurt with six minutes left in the first half when her ankle got pinned between a pair of Greenwood defenders and she went down in pain. After tending to her for almost 15 minutes, medics put her on a stretcher and she went off in an ambulance.
“That really hurt us,” Delao said. “She was our main scoring threat.”
Other than a couple of aggressive runs by Cara Sargent and Brittany Hettinger early in the second half, the Lady Falcons never mounted a serious attack.
The Lady Falcons finished 6-5-1.