Springdale tops No. 3 Seton LaSalle in shootout to reach WPIAL boys soccer finals

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Saturday, October 28, 2017 | 11:33 PM


Mike Zolnierczyk watched teammate Matt Taliani approach the ball with Springdale and Seton LaSalle deadlocked in a shootout. From practice experience, Zolnierczyk knew Taliani's go-to shot and fully expected success.

Practice makes perfect. Taliani beat Seton LaSalle goalkeeper Sam Reinhart with a low shot toward the left corner of the net, giving No. 7 Springdale a 2-1 shootout victory over Seton LaSalle in a Class A boys soccer semifinal game Saturday afternoon at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.

The Dynamos outscored Seton LaSalle, 4-3, in the shootout. Taliani was the sixth Springdale shooter after the teams were tied, 3-3, after the usual five. The sophomore converted his shot after Seton LaSalle's Gabe Rosario missed high.

“It's definitely something I'm going to remember forever,” Taliani said. “As soon as we needed a sixth guy, I stepped up. Once I saw he missed it, I knew I could come down and just went (with) how I did it in practice.”

Taliani took a deep breath, then fired a shot that appeared to freeze Reinhart, who reached for it in vain.

“(The deep breath) calms me down,” Taliani said. “Sometimes my legs get a little shaky.”

Said Zolnierczyk: “I knew where it was going because he beats me every day in practice.”

The Dynamos (15-4-1) knocked off a higher-seeded team for the second time in four days. They beat No. 2 Freedom, 2-1, on Wednesday. On Saturday, it was No. 3 Seton LaSalle's turn.

Now comes a WPIAL championship matchup against No. 1 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic — a section rival, no less — next week at Highmark Stadium. Springdale advanced to the title game for the first time since 2009 and is seeking its first championship since 1973.

“It's time to bring one home,” Zolnierczyk said. “Everyone — the whole school, the whole town — is behind us. They're supporting us, and it's time to bring one.”

It took 110 minutes of soccer and an extra shooter in penalty kicks to accomplish; Jared Demore scored Springdale's regulation goal, and Mario Liberati, Nick Taliani and Logan Panza converted in the shootout.

“I'm very happy for the kids. I'm very proud for the kids,” Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said. “You see how many players we've lost in the playoffs, and we've come back and played as a team.”

Seton LaSalle, which fell in the semifinals for the second consecutive season, saw its bid for its seventh WPIAL title since 2002 fall short. The Rebels (17-3-1) still can earn a spot in the PIAA playoffs with a victory over Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL consolation game Wednesday.

“It's just a crappy way to end the game, but it's the way you've got to end it,” Seton LaSalle coach Ryan Kelly said. “Obviously, we didn't capitalize on the chances we could have, and they did. They're the ones who get to play in the big game and we'll play in the game that's really hard to play for.”

After a scoreless first half, Springdale drew first blood when Demore gathered a loose ball off a corner kick and put a shot in the back of the net just over three minutes into the second half. Seton LaSalle tied it with just over 15 minutes remaining in the second half when Rosario took a long throw-in from Kaleb Krebs on the doorstep and scored.

Although the Rebels controlled the remainder of the second half, they couldn't tally the go-ahead goal, with Springdale's defenders coming up strong against Seton LaSalle's top scorers. Zach Liberati cleared a Seton LaSalle shot just before it crossed the goal line in the first overtime period. Zolnierczyk dove to stop a Daryl Daniels shot in double overtime, and Chris Sigg missed wide on the rebound.

“They came out firing, as we knew they would,” said Zolnierczyk, who made 11 saves. “But my defense, the midfield, everybody, brought together to keep it out of the net.”

Springdale lost both meetings to North Catholic during the regular season, 7-1 and 1-0 in overtime. The Dynamos hope to change their fortune next week.

“It's definitely something I think we can accomplish, and I think we're going to go out and do it,” Taliani said.

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

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