By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER - For much of this season, Sherando's boys soccer team has shown a flair for taking advantage of set-piece opportunities.
With good size and skill, plus loads of experience, the Warriors have excelled at turning corner kicks, free kicks, throw-ins and the like into prime scoring chances that often become goals.
In Saturday's Northwestern District tournament semifinal game against host James Wood, the Warriors showed none of that. Instead, they flashed the makings of a creative, on-the-fly attack that produced three goals in a 3-1 win over the Colonels. With the victory, top-seeded Sherando (14-1-1) advances to Tuesday's championship against No. 2 seed Millbrook at James Wood.
"We didn't score off any of our set pieces today," Sherando coach Patrick Anderson said. "At least we can find other ways to score, which is good. The more opportunities we get, the better."
The Warriors created plenty of those opportunities against upset-minded James Wood (7-10-1). Just seven minutes into the game at Jerry Kelican Stadium, Sherando turned one of those chances into the game's first goal. Sophomore Tommy Buono crossed the ball into the box directly in front of the goal. Sherando's Tyler Morris got a head on the ball and sliced it toward the far post, where teammate Andrew Wade was just arriving on a direct run down the goal-box line. Wade chipped in the skip pass from Morris for his third goal of the season.
"When we play the ball in front of the corners, for us the whole box is like a frame," Wade said. "So if the ball doesn't get out, then we're always there to finish."
The Colonels, losers by a combined 7-0 in two regular-season matchups with Sherando, nearly got on the scoreboard with 25:49 to play when Michael Carter got loose on a rare through-ball opportunity. Carter never really got off a strong shot because Warriors goalkeeper Rodrigo Casteriana was there in an instant to lay out for a body block.
The Warriors kept pressing forward, and with 12:03 left in the half they broke through once more. Sherando's Will Tatum connected on a rising shot toward the far post that Colonels goalkeeper Cameron Frye jumped to catch for a save. But as Frye was landing, he collided with a Sherando player in the box and the ball came loose. Buono was there to knock in the loose ball and put Sherando ahead 2-0.
"Today we were able to get the ball in the corner and put it across, and get some balls in the goal," Sherando junior Andrew Mullan said. "We wanted to keep the ball on our attacking half, and when we got in the back we played up. We just wanted to keep attacking the whole game."
Sherando did just that, and with 5:11 left in the first half it paid off again. Baylen McCarthy gathered in a loose ball just inside the penalty area, then made a burst through James Wood's back line before ripping a left-footed shot past Frye and into the right corner.
James Wood did get on the scoreboard in stoppage time when Sherando's Tanner Ruths was called for a handball in the penalty box. James Wood's Tommy Houser punched the ensuing penalty kick past Casteriana for a goal just before halftime. It was just one of three shot attempts in the first half -- and the game, for that matter -- for the Colonels.
"I thought we possessed well," Dunsmore said. "We just didn't get enough goals."
The Colonels' seven-goal outburst in James Wood's quarterfinal victory over Skyline did not go unnoticed by Anderson, who also had to deal with injured starters Alex Burns and Collin Ellias out of the lineup.
"We knew they were gonna come at us and they've got the players capable of doing that," Anderson said. "They put in seven the other night against Skyline. We just tried to get that first 10 minutes under control because we knew they were going to come at us. Then we tried to settle in and they tried to do our thing after that."
Anderson stressed that the Warriors aimed to "keep their shape" on defense, and Sherando did precisely that over the final 40 minutes. James Wood never managed a shot on goal in the second half as its season slowly came to an end.
Frye finished with nine saves for the Colonels, who were outshot 24-3 by the Warriors.
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at 540-465-5137 ext. 167 or at email@example.com