By Ho Hoffman
GRANGER TWP. — It isn’t often the visiting team has a home-field advantage, but that was the case for the Walsh Jesuit boys soccer team Saturday.
With Highland coach Billy Zufall moving the non-league game to the regulation-sized outdoor field at Pinnacle Sports Complex, the Warriors breezed to a 4-1 non-league win.
In a battle of Division I state-ranked teams, the No. 2 Warriors (10-2-0) relished the opportunity to play on the smooth turf and wider field, as they raced past the sixthranked Hornets (9-2-1).
“That was a huge advantage for us,” Walsh coach John Kissner said. “We have played on fields like this before and knew Highland hadn’t. We wanted to set the tempo, take advantage of the open spaces and be patient working for the good opportunities.”
It took a full half before Walsh’s patience and field control finally took over, but when it did there was no stopping its offensive attack.
Nick Parianos scored three minutes into the second half on a centering pass from Keith Grafmeyer. At the 20minute mark, Ryan Krause finished off a corner kick play started by Michael Brennan.
Brennan made it 3-0 when Parianos hit a pooch pass over Highland goalie Clay Cooper. Cooper had come out to challenge Pariasnos, leaving Brennan all alone for the easy score.
“Highland seemed to wear down in the second half,” Brennan said. “I don’t think they were used to the wider field and fast track. Our strategy was to run and move the ball all over into the open spaces.”
Jacob Naumann spoiled Walsh goalie Ryan Vellequette’s shutout bid by scoring on a direct kick from just outside the box with 12 minutes left, but Grafmeyer scored four minutes later to put things out of reach.
“Our lack of discipline because of the unfamiliarity of the speed of play and the open spaces led to our downfall,” Zufall said. “On all of their goals, we were running around and not settled into where we should have been. Walsh, being such a good team, easily took advantage of those mistakes.”
Walsh is now 3-0-0 against the Hornets since 2004.
“Walsh is definitely the best or second-best team in the state,” Zufall said. “They are well-coached, have great talent and lots of speed. They knew how to play on this pitch.”
Conspicuous by their absence were a game clock operator and announcer. Statisticians used a regular watch to keep time. Spectators were confined to the metal bleachers outside the complex.
Contact Ho Hoffman at email@example.com.