After four straight semifinal losses; Friends gets over the hump and wins the MIAA B Conference soccer championship
by Gary Adornato and Joe DiBlasi
The senior class on the Friends School boys soccer team has not lacked for success during their Quaker careers, having reached the MIAA B Conference semifinals in all four years. Friends, however, entered 2017 with four straight semifinal losses, leaving the program a bit frustrated, not to mention thirsty for a championship.
That thirst was quenched on Sunday evening at Anne Arundel Community College as the 13th-ranked Quakers, clearly the best team in the MIAA B Conference this fall, scored three first half goals and cruised to a 4-1 victory in the championship game, giving Friends its first soccer championship and MIAA B title since 1999.
Concordia Prep (15-6-1), in its first season in the B Conference after winning the C Conference title last year, was the only team to beat Friends this season and the Saints took it to the Quakers in the opening minutes, dominating the early possession and nearly netting the game’s first score on several occasions.
When Friends struck back with a counter attack, however, the Quakers did so with a vengeance.
With 22:51 to play in the first half senior Patrick Linehan flicked a ball onto the head of senior Paul Benzer and he converted the volley to give the Quakers (17-1-1) a 1-0 lead. Eighteen seconds later, Friends was on the scoreboard again when senior Mike Klausner delivered an excellent cross to freshman Ned Forbrush, who powered a shot into the net.
“We knew if we got up early, they didn’t have that much of a chance,” said Benzer. “They started off really well, but Patrick Linehan crossed an amazing ball past the box and I just headed it.”
“Mike (Klausner) made a really good run down the line and found me,” said Forbrush in describing his goal. “It gave us a lot confidence.”
Later in the half, Mike Klausner got a goal of his own when he was in position to put back a rebound off of a saved shot, fired from the foot of Stephen Bogusky, to send the Quakers to the half with a commanding 3-0 lead.
Concordia (15-6-1) continued to battle in the second half, but an own goal, created by another excellent shot by Klausner, made it 4-0, putting the contest virtually out of reach with 30 minutes to play. The Saints did finally break through when sophomore Taylor Calheira scored with an assist from junior Andrew Schnaack, with 25:41 to play.
Friends coach Philip Greatwich, who also coaches with the Pipeline Soccer program, just completed his third season at the helm of the Friends’ varsity program, after leading the JV for two years. He indicated that it has been a building process to get the Quakers to this point.
“The first two years I was an assistant to Santino Quaranta, who of course is a big big name around here,” said Greatwich. “We just got better and better, but unfortunately luck was not on our side. This year magic happened. We had a lot of seniors and everything just fit against a really good, young Concordia team.”
Greatwich also explained his strategy for the contest.
“Most people saw the game; they probably dominated 60-70% of the game, but that was the game plan, to absorb the pressure, counter and see what we could do.”
Once Friends broke through on the scoreboard, the momentum shifted drastically in its direction.
“That’s why I love the game of soccer because at any one moment the game can just turn,” added Greatwich. They had all the possession. They came out on fire; we came out flat. A goal can change everything. Momentum swings and they had to open up and try and get that equalizer and we managed to hit two more before halftime and another goal hear.”
From there, Greatwich knew his club had what it takes to close out the win.
“They got a goal, (making it) 4-1, still with 25 minutes left. I’ve seen crazier things happen, but we are a mature team. There was no way we were losing today with the nine seniors we have and I am so proud and happy for the boys after all the heartache we have had the last four years.”
Klausner echoed his coaches sentiments.
“I’ve been on the team since I was a freshman. This has been the goal all along. We lost in the semifinals the first three years so it was finally amazing to get past the semifinals. We had a lot of seniors returning so we knew we were going to have a good season. So, being able to go an finish it against the one team that beat us this year was amazing.”
MIAA B CONFERENCE SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP
(at Anne Arundel Community College)
NO. 13 FRIENDS 4, CONCORDIA PREP 1
CP 0 1 — 1
FS 3 1 — 4
GOALS: CP-Taylor Calheira; FS-Paul Benzer, Ned Forbrush, Mike Klausner, Own Goal.
ASSISTS: CP-Andrew Schnaack; FS-Patrick Linehan, Klausner, Stephen Bogusky.
SAVES: CP-Noah Gregory 5; FS-Liam Cullen 2.