Springdale boys shake off early injury to shut out Serra Catholic

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Saturday, October 21, 2017 | 8:27 PM


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Springdale's boys soccer playoff opener began ominously, with leading scorer Jared Demore suffering a leg injury less than two minutes into the game.

The Dynamos, though, proved their depth can withstand even the most significant of absences.

Justin McClafferty scored a pair of goals, and No. 7 Springdale took a three-goal lead by halftime on its way to a 4-0 win over Serra Catholic in their WPIAL Class A first-round game Saturday at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.

“Good teams always recover from our mistakes, and we did,” Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said. “Overall, everybody did their job, even the guys who got in for our starters. It's a team effort. If Jared doesn't score in a game, somebody else is scoring.”

Springdale (13-4-1) advanced to the quarterfinals, where it will face No. 2 Freedom (18-1) on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

Demore, who has 24 goals, went down on a tackle inside the Serra goal box on a play that drew a foul.

Although Serra goalkeeper Ted Almeter denied Springdale's Nick Taliani on the resulting penalty kick, the Dynamos wouldn't be denied. Zach Liberati took a drop pass from Brogan McCutcheon and buried a shot in the eighth minute.

“It was very important getting us going early, and we kept it going,” said Liberati, who had a goal and two assists.

McClafferty scored on the redirect of a deflected Michael Mitchell shot in the 15th, and Taliani made it 3-0 in the 28th by heading in a Liberati corner kick.

“We came into this strong, knowing we had to play as a team, and we came out victorious,” said McClafferty, a senior. “Coming into playoffs, you really do have to get (goals) in the first half, get them in the first half early and don't let up because that's how people come back. That's how you lose a game in the end.”

Serra (9-8-1) had a pair of strong chances when trailing by two goals, but Springdale keeper Mike Zolnierczyk made diving saves on a Brandon Borek header and Joey Folino shot. Zolnierczyk finished with five stops.

A third Eagles opportunity off the foot of Chris Salemi hit the crossbar just before halftime.

“We just couldn't put them in the back of the net today, and that was ultimately the difference,” Serra coach Chad Bruns said. “They put their three away, and ours, a half-inch here (and) half-inch there, maybe it's a different game. But that's just the way it goes sometimes. They had a good day finishing. We were slightly off, and that's how it comes to a conclusion.”

Springdale made good use of its opportunities, keeping passes on the ground to open spaces and using its team speed to chase down balls. McClafferty scored his second goal early in the second half and came inches away from a hat trick when a shot later in the half clanked off the crossbar.

Taliani's goal came on a corner kick play that the Dynamos tried all season and converted for the first time in their regular-season finale against California.

“We don't play physical. We play technical, moving the ball and get good results,” Sanchez said. “We do possession of the game, not running with the ball, make the ball run. That saves energy, and no balls in the air, only passes to open space because 50/50 balls are ripe for injuries.”

Taliani left early in the second half with a leg injury, but Sanchez said he believed he and Demore could return in time for the quarterfinal game.

The Dynamos met Freedom in the first round last season, bowing out in double overtime, and McClafferty said the team discussed that game before playing Serra.

“That's not the way we wanted to go out last year,” Liberati said. “We really wanted to do a lot better this year, and we showed that we can.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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