In the postseason, the play of a team’s veteran leaders can often make the difference between advancing or going home.
Glenelg senior Vincent DePasquale gave the Gladiators an early lead and fellow senior, goalkeeper Joey Samsock made it stand as the Gladiators boys soccer team picked up a 2-1 road victory over Sparrows Point in a Class 2A\1A state quarterfinals Friday.
“We have an experienced group from the run that we made last year,” Glenelg coach Joey Osborne said. “That has helped us as we go to weather things a little bit. Not get too high or too low and try to keep ourselves even keel as we go.”
After a back-and-forth first 20 minutes of play, DePasquale earned the edge for Glenelg (10-4-1 overall) by converting off a throw in by senior midfielder Jake Szczepanski. The throw was lofted into the box and DePasquale used his height advantage to knock a header past the diving Sparrows Point goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.
“Jake threw a great ball and [the Sparrows Point defenders] were just too tiny,” DePasquale said. “[The playoffs] are great. I love it. I want to go out with a bang in my senior year.”
The score stayed 1-0 thanks to a diving save by Samsock with 12 minutes to go in the first half. The senior goalie denied an open look from Pointers’ midfielder Kevin Ramos, on a 2-on-1 breakaway, to maintain the lead.
“I know my team, especially my back line, they rely on me back there to be the leader on defense,” Samsock said. “They know if [the ball] is in the air, I am coming up to get it.”
Glenelg added to its advantage a short time later. With 11 minutes, six seconds to go in the first half, junior midfielder Justin Zulu took a pass from senior Roman Farace near the 30-yard mark and split pair of defenders to earn a scoring chance in the box.
Zulu beat the Sparrow Point goalkeeper with a shot to the top corner as the Gladiators went up 2-0 heading into the half.
The physicality of the contest picked up in the second half with the Pointers attempting to keep their season alive. The Glenelg defense stiffened and made it difficult for Sparrows Point to find an open look.
“We knew that they were going to be dangerous,” Osborne said. “They have some really good and talented players up top. It’s the final eight teams. There are no bad teams left. We came into this game, knowing every round is going to get more and more difficult.”
Under a lot of pressure deep in their zone, the Gladiators got too physical and earned a yellow card that give Sparrows Point some momentum with 12 minutes to go in the game.
With the clock ticking under 11 minutes to go, the Pointers got back into the game by halving the deficit to 2-1 when senior forward Dominic Dubon gathered a loose ball inside the box and delivered a shot just past Samsock and inside the post.
Sparrows Point kept up the offensive pressure after that but could not find the tying score as Samsock made a pair of big saves to preserve the win.
“Some things didn’t go our way in the first half, and we dug ourselves into a 2-0 hole,” Sparrows Point coach Joe Lambert said. “We battled back but we couldn’t finish a couple of chances that we had.”
The biggest moment for Samsock came with 5:25 left in the game off a corner kick from the Pointers. The senior goalkeeper made the initial save on a shot following the corner but could not corral the loose ball as it bounced away. Samsock reacted quickly and sprawled to his left to smother the ball just before a Sparrow Point player was
able to grab the loose ball and score. That missed chance proved to be best shot for Sparrows Point to even the game as Glenelg got the ball back and melted the clock to move on.
“I just go after the ball – I don’t think about anything else,” Samsock said. “With five minutes left in an important game, I just wanted to be there for my team and my defense.”
For Sparrows Point, it was a tough way to conclude a season that saw them win 11 games (11-5-1) and capture a regional crown.
“An 11-win season is nothing to be disappointed in – that’s a great season,” Lambert said. “[We faced] a good team here today – one of the better teams we played this year.”
CLASS 2A/1A STATE QUARTERFINAL
GLENELG 2, SPARROWS POINT 1
Glenelg 2 0 - 2
Sparrows Point 0 1 - 1
Goals: Glenelg - Vincent DePasquale, Justin Zulu. Sparrows Point – Dominic Dubon.
Assists: Glenelg – Jake Szczepanski.
Saves: Glenelg - Joey Samsock 5; Sparrows Point – Chase Broughman 3.