Mayo wills its way past improved JM
Rochester Mayo was looking for more energy in the second half Thursday as it took on the most improved boys soccer team in the Big Nine Conference, John Marshall.
The half had belonged to JM, though the score belonged to nobody, tied at 0.
Well, thanks to some adjustments, including bringing defenseman Cole Wagar up from defense to midfield,the Spartans got just what they were looking for after that. With it, they emerged a 1-0 winner over JM in the conference game at Mayo.
Mayo moved to 3-0 in the Big Nine and 5-3 overall. JM is 2-1, 5-3.
As much as JM owned the first half, Mayo owned the second, outshooting the Rockets 9-4 after intermission.
"I told our players that if they kept playing like they had in the first half, that JM would eventually score," Mayo longtime coach Charles Abboud said. "We were getting dominated by JM in the midfield. That's why I brought up Cole to play midfield. He plays with a lot of energy and zest. He helped us a lot."
Said Wagar, a junior: "I think I bring a lot of speed and more excitement. I just really want to win."
As far as JM coach Tony Birch was concerned, Mayo's approach turned a bit too zesty. Zesty as in physical. Birch felt that took JM completely out of its game.
"They were knocking our guys off the ball," said Birch, who was clearly irked. "Mentally, that style of play really frustrated us. But we'll learn from it."
Both sides had their chances to score in the first half, but were repelled by the solid goaltending of Mayo's Alex Sedarski and JM's Ben Kellner.
Sedarski had six saves in the first half and Kellner four.
There were also a scattering of dazzlingindividual moves in those first 40 minutes. JM's Ayomide Adebayo exhibited why he's been such a strong scorer this season, as the junior forward showed off his stop-and-start moves and his tight foot skills.
Then there was Mayo sophomore Jonny Loera pinballing the ball backand forth off his feet, in a tight space, and then knifing through a pair of JM defenders.
But there was nothing to show for any of it, thought, until almost two minutes into the second half.
That's when Mayo converted off a rush up the field. The original shot caromed off a JM defend, 20 yards in front of the Rockets' net. It landed just in front of Mayo's Alex See, who was standing alone, with an entire left portion of the net to work with. He made JM pay, easily banging the ball in for what would be the game's only goal.
Mayo seemed to be playing downhill the first part of the second half, and JM just the opposite. The ball was almost entirely in JM's end the first 30 minutes. Besides See's goal, there were a couple of just-misses by the Spartans, who outshot JM 4-0 to begin the second half.
The best chance came from a driving Liam Reid Hathaway, who navigated the ball two-thirds of the field by himself, weaving and powering his way through defenders. He finally ended his forceful cruise 18 yards in front of Kellner, pounding a shot that the JM goalie was barely able to stop, securing the ball out of midair with both hands.
But that See goal seemed to do something to JM, which has a decidedly losing record in recent years against Mayo. The confidence and energy the Rockets showed in the first half waned.
As much as the Rockets have improved this season, and shown themselves to be among the best in the Big Nine Conference, they were reminded that Mayo is still Mayo. Over the last 20 years, there hasn'tbeen a stronger program in the Big Nine.
For JM — and so many other teams in the league — that legacy is tough to overcome.
Mayo 1, John Marshall 0
John Marshall:Goalie: Ben Kellner 11 saves.
Mayo:Alex See 1 goal. Goalie: Alex Sedarski 10 saves.