Krotec makes 10 saves, Breen nets winner as Norwin tops No. 2 Franklin Regional

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | 9:54 PM

Having Norwin's boys soccer team spend the 20 minutes before halftime in a daze wasn't something Knights forward Carter Breen was pleased with. No. 2-ranked Franklin Regional was controlling possession Tuesday night at home and appeared on the verge of breaking through.

The wake-up the Knights needed came quicker than anyone expected. Breen charged inside the box with the ball 23 seconds into the second half and flicked a shot past Franklin Regional goalkeeper Jeremy Lucas to propel Norwin to a 1-0 win.

“I saw they were playing better than us in the first half, and we needed to step it up and bring the energy up,” Breen said. “That always helps. When the energy's up, we play better and are motivated better.”

Finding sufficient reason to play defense was easy for the Knights. Norwin's backline had to match the effort of its keeper, Kyle Krotec. Moving confidently through his box, Krotec turned away 10 shots for the Knights (3-1-1, 2-0).

For most of the first half, neither team was able to get much going toward the net.

Once the Panthers (4-1, 2-1) found their path to the net, they ran into Krotec.

“Our keeper made a bunch of great saves today,” Breen said. “The game was on him. He saved our butts a few times. When we got a chance, we took it. Settle in and play defense from there.”

Franklin Regional's Shane Popko was the first to threaten Krotec in the 32nd minute, putting a shot off the outside of the post.

Three minutes later, Ryan Beard got ball about 7 yards from the goal line off a pass from Austin Kronic, only to have it parried away by Krotec.

“I get the ball quick as I can and don't let them have a chance to shoot it,” Krotec said. “I take every shot as its own.”

Krotec's biggest stops came in the 10 minutes following Breen's goal. Domenick DiFalco was set up close to the net by Popko, but Krotec turned his shot away.

Shortly after, DiFalco sent a hard shot that sailed over the crossbar.

“We gave them too much time in their back end,” Norwin coach Scott Schuchert said. “So we wanted to shrink the field at full press, and that changed the dynamic. We were causing them to make more mistakes in their own end.”

Nolan Scholze nearly evened things up for the Panthers with nine minutes remaining. Reporting in after a substitution, the ball found Scholze and he put a shot goal from 15 yards out that was knocked away by Krotec.

DiFalco's free kick from 28 yards out with 6 minutes left was again punched away by Krotec.

Franklin Regional coach Rand Hudson lamented the close calls. Having the Knights form a solid defensive shape early made it difficult for the Panthers to get many clean looks at the net.

“It was (close) from the beginning,” Hudson said. “We wanted to possess and shift it quickly to try and get different angles to penetrate on the passing. … We hit that crossbar, that crossbar and that post. Another night, three inches, we might win the game 3-1. It didn't break that way tonight.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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