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By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- There's a certain blandness, a tastelessness, to tie games -- a clear feeling of disappointment countered by a calming sense of relief.
It wasn't a win; but then, it wasn't a loss, either.
But somehow that colorless feeling was lost Tuesday night.
Millbrook senior Julian Pantoja, after nearly 90 minutes of sprinting up and down the Millbrook pitch, crawled stiffly to the Winchester grass and stretched his calves.
Senior Chris Barrette was far past the point of needing light stretches to loosen his cramping calves -- he stuffed bags of ice into the back of both his socks.
Indeed, there was an unmistakable cruelty to Millbrook's 2-2 outing with Handley. Neither team had a win to validate all those cramps.
So what's Millbrook to do?
"We lick our wounds and wait for Broadway on Thursday," Millbrook coach Keith Kilmer said. "It was a physical game and it took its toll on us.
"Where do we go? We build off of this -- we build on it and we key in on every game [being] this intense for us."
The teams combined for 36 free kicks on Tuesday, the vast majority of which were the result of fouls. In the fourth minute, Handley senior Nilesh Virmani went down with what appeared to be a wrist injury. In the 55th minute, Pantoja went down with what appeared to be a knee injury.
Both players eventually returned.
Handley, too, has its ubiquitous injuries to deal with; but Cosmo Balio's Judges hurt in a different, perhaps more pressing way.
Coming off a recent loss to James Wood, and now a not-so-bland tie with Millbrook, Balio is now left to devise a way of sparking his normally potent attack from out of its two-game rut.
"I think we're still trying to figure out how to attack," Balio said. "We just can't seem to find a rhythm."
Handley senior David Ko was man-marked. Senior Zac Gordon told Balio he couldn't turn around without three Millbrook defenders converging on him.
At least the Judges have a capable alternative option: Junior Eduardo Santiago scored both of Handley's goals. The first came in the 25th minute when he cleaned up a missed chance by Gene Ogilvie. His second came in the 37th minute when Gordon played him a ball from midfield.
Santiago's first goal tied the match; his second goal put Handley up 2-1. Both came as a relief for the Judges.
"Anything can happen after a tie," Santiago said of his first goal. "You always have to keep going -- just because they score doesn't mean you can't score. So a goal always helps out, and it definitely helped us out, because afterward we came out and scored another one."
Santiago Sanchez scored for Millbrook on a header in the 20th minute; Barrette evened the score with a blast in the first injury time.
But such fanciful scoring had expired by the start of the second half. Both defenses had settled into the game. Both teams grew weary and exhausted.
Ogilvie's chance in the 72nd minute was spoiled by the Millbrook defense. Millbrook junior Mark Guntle's free kick in the final injury time sailed wide of the left post.
Guntle had two more opportunities to score: Midway through the second overtime period he sent a shot high; with two minutes left in the game he had an open look inside the penalty box, but it was broken up by Handley senior Levi Stein.
The match ended when Handley junior Deni Deyanov sent a free kick low and wide of the goal.
The result is bland. It's tasteless. But it's not a loss.
"I'm not as happy as a win, but I thought we came out strong," Barrette said. "Morale-wise, I think it's good for us -- we didn't lose, we came out as hard as we could, played probably one of our best games."