Notre Dame Rally Falls Short, Waterville Wins Thriller

Posted on Oct 19 2016 - 2:29am by Jeff Pexton
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Utica – Too often in high school sports in Central New York, folks are way too quick to criticize Section 3 officials and committees for the seedings for post season tournaments, in pretty much every sport. The Utica-Rome and Mohawk Valley areas often believe that Syracuse area schools get shown favoritism and visa-versa. Somehow, some way, things always seem to work out though.

If tonight’s Class “C” boys soccer opening round tournament game between Notre Dame and Waterville is any indication, Section III hit the nail on the head this season, for at least a couple of reasons. First, both teams were well (well) below .500 in winning percentages this past regular season, yet by tournament criteria, they each qualified for the post season. Second,  any high school athlete or coach will tell you that if a team is given a chance at the post season, nine times out of ten, that team is going to throw caution to the wind and go all out when “win or go home” playoff games begin.

Notre Dame and Waterville took different paths to tonight’s Section 3 opener at Notre Dame High School. Waterville came in at (6-10) overall and finished 3rd in the CSC – III with a (3-5) conference mark. The Jugglers slugged it out in the brutal Tri-Valley League, against “AA”, “A” and “B” schools, finishing the regular season at (3-12-1) overall and they didn’t win a regular season contest in the TVL.


Brandon English (3) lets loose his first goal of the game, as Notre Dame's Osa Oduwa (16) looks for the block. (Photo By - Jeff Pexton - Perfect Game Imaging)

Brandon English (3) lets loose his first goal of the game, as Notre Dame’s Osa Oduwa (16) looks for the block. (Photo By – Jeff Pexton – Perfect Game Imaging)


Forget the records, it’s playoff time. Tonight the huge contingent of fans in the stands were treated to one of the most entertaining soccer matches of the season, as Waterville struck early, took a 2 goal advantage, then held off a resilient Jugglers team by a score of 5-4 to advance to the second round.

Tonight’s game started out quickly for Waterville as Mitchell Sitts banged home a loose ball off the first corner kick of the game, giving the Indians a rapid 1-0 lead over the 6th seeded Jugglers, just 2:04 into the match.

Just a little more than 20 minutes later, the visitors struck again, this time Brandon English launched a rocket from 30 yards away, over the leaping Jugglers keeper, C.J. Tucker, to make it 2-0, with 16:39 remaining in the first half.

The Jugglers probably could have folded up the tent at that point and given in, being down two so quickly on their home sod. Well, they didn’t. Not one member of Coach Mark Schmalz’s club threw up the white flag. In fact they ramped their collective effort to a point that even surprised Waterville.

That effort paid off with 13:21 to go in the 1st half when Nate Cooley hit home a loose ball in the box to pull his team to within 2-1.


Notre Dame's Ben Cooley (13) who scored two of his team's four goals, races up field, with Waterville's Brayton Furner (6) giving chase. (Photo By - Jeff Pexton - Perfec Game Imaging)

Notre Dame’s Ben Cooley (13) who scored two of his team’s four goals, races up field, with Waterville’s Brayton Furner (6) giving chase. (Photo By – Jeff Pexton – Perfect Game Imaging)


The Notre Dame enthusiasm was slowed however, when, after a stoppage of play with 9:58 to go in the opening half Jacob Barth nailed a direct kick from about 20 yards away, which was fielded by Brayton Furner and hammered home to give the Indians a 3-1 advantage.

That would put the Jugglers away for sure, right? Wrong. It took about 8 minutes of back and forth action in the middle of the field but the relentless Jugglers pulled to within 3-2 when David Zemanek hit a rebound under Waterville keeper Keith Prindle, keeping Notre Dame within just one goal as the teams went to half time.

At the half, Jugglers coach Schmalz and his staff reminded the Jugglers keep working the sidelines and continue to cross balls into the middle and they would have more success in the second half. That advice held true, as Eli Neth headed home a ball to tie the game at 3-3 with 32:19 remaining in the contest.

The Jugglers pressure almost paid off again, with 22 minutes to go and the score still tied, Eli Neth broke in on the Waterville goal and collided with Prindle, who made a spectacular save to keep things knotted at 3-3.


Amidst a crowd in the box, Waterville keeper Keith Prindle (right) locks on a shot on goal with time winding down in the game. (Photo by - Jeff Pexton - Perfect Game Imaging)

Amidst a crowd in the box, Waterville keeper Keith Prindle (right) locks on a shot on goal with time winding down in the game. (Photo by – Jeff Pexton – Perfect Game Imaging)


Then, with 19:31 remaining, Brandon English found the net again, blasting a laser beam between the gloves of Tucker, to put Waterville up 4-3.

The fiery Indians kept the momentum rolling 10 minutes later as Ben Petrie bent a direct kick into the back of the Jugglers net from about 25 yards out, giving Waterville a commanding 5-3 lead with 9:14 to play.

This one was over for “sure” now right? Wrong again. Notre Dame’s Derik Lindsey threw a ball on from the left side of the field, into a scrum in the Waterville box and Nate Cooley headed home his second goal of the game to pull Notre Dame back to within 5-4, with 5:03 to play in this opening round contest.

The Jugglers kept up the intense pressure right down to the wire, but Waterville’s goal keeping and defensive efforts were up to the task. Eli Noth nearly tied it with 50 seconds to go but Keith Prindle ranged high and deflected the would be tying goal and preserved the Indians playoff victory.

Prindle finished with 10 saves on the night, none of which were simple. C.J. Tucker had a solid night in his own right in goal for the Jugglers, making 8 saves under constant pressure.

Waterville, (7-10) the 11th seed in the 13 team single elimination tournament, advances to take on the 3rd seeded Cooperstown Hawkeyes on Friday at Cooperstown.

Notre Dame finishes the season at (3-13-1).

Congrats to both clubs on a phenomenal soccer game. One of those games somebody had to win and somebody had to lose. No shame in either in this one!