The Hillsdale Academy boys soccer team saw its finest season ever to come to an end Tuesday, with a 5-1 loss to Plymouth Christian in the first round of Division 4 regionals.
It marks the end of a record-setting 11-win season where the Colts were one of the state’s final 16 teams left standing after winning the school’s first district championship.
The Colts fell behind early on a most unusual goal and they struggled to overcome occasional mental mistakes after they evened the contest 1-1.
Academy head coach Neal Brady said Plymouth Christian is known for the school’s very well-developed soccer tradition and the Colts found themselves surprised by several trick plays and set plays Tuesday — including the initial score.
Eight minutes into the contest the Eagles had a corner kick, and as the Colts were getting positioned to defend it, a Plymouth Christian player discretely moved the ball just barely with the touch of a foot, putting the ball in play. Meanwhile the Academy thought the ball was still dead.
The Eagle’s Jordan Machonga proceeded to kick the ball 8-10 feet and then ran up to it, dribbled out and rifled a shot past Colts goal keeper Peter Sullivan. If Machonga’s teammate had not touched the ball it would have been a violation for him to be the first player to touch the ball off what appeared to
be a corner kick, but instead it was a goal.
“I’ve never seen anything like it and I think it kind of just shocked us a little,” Colts assistant coach Tim Sullivan said.
Just two minutes later, Peter Sullivan punted the ball more than three-quarters of the length of the field and found luck on his side. An Eagle’s defender chose to head the ball back to his goal keeper, but the ball took an erratic bounce right past him and the game was tied at one on an own goal by Plymouth Christian.
With 15 minutes left to play in the first half Eagle’s freshman Dan Ross capitalized on a penalty kick and he scored again less than a minute later on an interception, to put his team up 3-1.
Machonga and Alex Chapman scored second-half goals for the Eagles, as the moved on to the state quarterfinals.
Peter Sullivan had 13 saves for the Academy and Brady said Nekoda Cartwright and Sawyer Moss had several good scoring chances they just couldn’t quite capitalize on.
Brady said he thought the Eagles weren’t that much better physically, they just made less mental errors and played more consistently.
The only Colts player who won’t return in 2010 is Ricky Davis of Will Carleton Academy, and Brady said he hopes to see his boys mature and continue to progress in the offseason.
“We had a great year and we showed we have a lot of talented soccer players, but it’s difficult with a young group to establish some emotional maturity and I think that’s where we were deficient at times this year,” he said.
Brady also said this team re-energized him though, with its commitment to success.
“I was very proud to be a part of the program. It energizes me to have success like this and to have players respond to your coaching like this group did,” he said. “It gives me great hope for the future.”
Tim Sullivan said the team was disappointed to go out like this, but this year was filled with plenty of unforgettable moments.
“It really was a great experience. We got this far, we’ve seen what it takes and hopefully it will make us even hungrier for next year,” he said. “We were pleasantly surprised for sure, about our defense especially and we feel like we have a more balanced team than ever.”