Penalty kick gives Indiana boys soccer 1st-round win over Belle Vernon
Saturday, October 24, 2020 | 5:18 PM
Josh Glaser said three words ran through his head as he set up for the final penalty kick.
“Don’t miss it.”
“If you think you’re going to miss, you’ll miss,” the Indiana senior forward said. “You have to think you’re going to make it.”
The confident Glaser fired low and right and made it — barely.
Belle Vernon senior goalkeeper T.J. Watson dove and smothered the shot, but the soccer ball squirted from his grasp and into the back on the net to crush the host Leopards’ postseason hopes.
The dramatic score gave the 10th-seeded Indians a 4-3 edge in a shootout after they played two overtimes with No. 7 Belle Vernon, locked at 1-1, in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff game Saturday afternoon at James Weir Stadium.
“Josh only has five goals this year,” Indiana coach Todd Myers said. “All that matters is that he gave us chance. He gave us a shot — and it went in.”
With its first playoff win since 2017, Indiana (9-4-2) advances to play at No. 2 Franklin Regional (14-2) 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
In a first-round rematch — Belle Vernon won 1-0 last year — Indiana was ready to go extra time with the Leopards, who played their third overtime game of the season and first shootout in two years.
“We knew our five PK shooters coming in.” Myers said. “We always practice PKs before a playoff game. When we found out we were playing Belle Vernon, the kids were super-pumped to play them again.”
Belle Vernon, which had 81 goals coming in, ends the season at 14-3. It has won 31 of its last 36 games but could not punctuate another strong regular season.
“We had chances today and didn’t capitalize,” Leopards coach Rob Miele said. “We knew this game could end up going to PKs. It’s tough to emulate that pressure.”
Watson and Indiana senior keeper Sam Fefolt were terrific all match. Fefolt made 10 saves, and Watson stopped eight shots across 110 minutes of soccer.
Glaser said his deciding shot had slight spin on it, which might have aided its escape from Watson’s clutches.
“That was a tough one for (Watson),” Miele said. “He’s crushed, but we never would have even been in this position without him. He had a great season for us. It doesn’t come down to one guy.”
After Fefolt stopped Daniel Sassak’s opening shot of the guessing-game shootout, Ethan Shearer converted for the Indians. Sassak opened the scoring for the Leopards with his 33rd goal of the season in the 14th minute.
Fefolt then stymied Austin Martin and Isaac Myers made his attempt to put Indiana up 2-0.
“Sam is a three-year starter for us, and he has been stellar,” Myers said. “He’s our rock.”
Nick Nagy scored for Belle Vernon, and Aaron McKelvy followed for the Indians to make it 3-1.
But Tyler Mocello made his shot for the Leopards, and Watson stuffed Jack Turner.
Tyler Kovatch, who had an assist earlier in the game, converted for Belle Vernon to tie it 3-3. That set up the winning attempt for Glaser, who also had a goal in regulation. His 20-yard free kick curled its way past Watson in the 16th minute.
“I just tried to hit my spot,” Glaser said of his second score.
Belle Vernon will lose six seniors but will bring back Sassak, along with five other starters.
“They’re a good group,” Miele said. “We had a good two-year run. We will reset and retool for next year. This is the senior group that came in with us (coaches). It’s a tough ending. But I am proud of the way they handled this season and the sacrifices they made with the pandemic and everything.”
Indiana entered the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. It will be a monumental challenge to start a winning streak, but the Indians are not star-struck by Franklin Regional, the two-time defending WPIAL champion that blanked No. 15 Knoch, 7-0, in the first round.
“To be the best, you have to beat the best,” Myers said. “We know we’ll have to go through them at some point. At this point, everyone’s good.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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