Trojans bounced from playoffs by Mauldin

- Herald correspondent

Since he took over the Mauldin Mavericks in 2009, coach Joe Siatkowski has watched his squad lose convincingly to the Northwestern Trojans in every meeting between the two teams.

On Thursday, it was Mauldin who celebrated on the Trojans' field, sending the stunned three-time state defending champions home after a 2-1 victory.

"Mauldin has never beaten Northwestern in the playoffs -- until now," said an emotional Siatkowski. The Mavericks lost in the third round of the 2009 playoffs to Northwestern 5-0, and again in the 2010 Upper State championship game 4-1. "The Trojans are one of the top teams in the nation, and this has been a cursed field for us. But tonight we pulled it out, and the feeling is indescribable."

Free kicks and on-the-field injuries defined the gritty first half of action. In the 10th minute of regulation, Northwestern senior midfielder and team captain Kevin Ray went down with a leg injury and only played sporadic minutes for the remainder of the game.

According to Trojans coach Dom Wren, Ray's injury drastically changed their strategy, but emphasized his team's need to step up in his absence.

"It was most certainly a blow to this team's morale and to our game plan," Wren said. "But in no way, shape, or form is that an excuse for this team losing. We simply lost to the better team tonight, and all the congratulations in the world are in order for Mauldin."

The Trojans took a 1-0 lead over Mauldin in the 12th minute via a goal kick, successfully taken by senior forward Ricardo Garbanzo. Both Northwestern and Mauldin had numerous free kicks as tempers flared, highlighted by a near brawl at the 15th minute that forced referees to separate the two teams and issue yellow cards to both sides. A second fight occurred in the 47th minute between Mauldin's Rory Feigel and Northwestern's Austin Newman after a fight for the ball occurred between the two.

The Trojans took their 1-0 lead into the second half, despite having only two first half shots on goal and allowing the Mavericks to dominate the time of possession for much of the first 40 minutes.

The length of the Trojans defensive front, led by junior Hunt Smith, forced the Mavericks into several missed scoring opportunities in a first half that could've easily ended in Mauldin's favor. But that wasn't the case in the second half, as the Mavericks finally solved the Trojans' revered defense and kept up the offensive pressure.

Mauldin had eight shots on goal in the second half compared with the Trojans' four, and once again largely controlled the time of possession. But this time, the Maverick offense wouldn't be denied, as senior forward Ignacio Monchetti capitalized on a deflection off Trojans goaltender Sam Faris to tie the game in the 53rd minute of play. Three minutes later, Monchetti nearly had his second goal of the game, bending a ball into the top of the goal post past the outstretched grasp of Faris.

But that wouldn't be the last time Monchetti would make his voice heard in the game.

After the tension-filled 20 minutes which elapsed following Mauldin's game-tying goal, a brilliant lob pass from Maverick senior forward Oscar Arellano gave Monchetti an open look at the net as Faris scrambled to meet him. But it was too late, and Monchetti's ball sailed true into the back of the net, putting the Mavericks ahead 2-1 at the 74th minute. It was a lead they would maintain until the final whistle sounded, despite a goal line tussle in stoppage time that nearly saw Northwestern answer back at the last possible second.

"They made us play their style in the first half, so we made it point to change that in the second half," Monchetti said. "Our team is pint sized, so we relied on speed and footwork to overcome their size advantage. Plus this was more than just a game to us, and our intensity carried us through too."

Though the Northwestern season ended in heartbreaking fashion, Wren was composed and all smiles after the game, proud of his team's effort despite claims that this was a rebuilding season for the Trojans.

"You tend to be introspective after losing, but a tremendous game of soccer was played out here tonight," Wren said. "As a coach, you always wonder if you had your team fully prepared, but what gives me pride is the 100 percent effort that was on display from my team out there tonight. In my opinion, considering the setbacks and struggles, this season was a success."

MAULDIN 2

NORTHWESTERN 1

First half

NW -- Ricardo Garbanzo 12th minute, no assist

Second half

M--Ignacio Monchetti 53rd minute, no assist

M -- Monchetti 74th minute, Oscar Arellano

Shots on goal -- Mauldin 12, Northwestern 6

Corner kicks -- Mauldin 6, Northwestern 3

Goalies -- Mauldin: Evan Rogers (3 saves); Northwestern: Sam Faris (5 saves).

Records: Northwestern 14-4, Easley 14-9


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