After a two-game losing streak that saw them drop an instant classic against Carlinville 1-0, an instantly forgettable game against Jerseyville 3-0, and getting rained out against Effingham St Anthony on Saturday, the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team returned to the pitch Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 7, as they took on the Pana Panthers on the road at Pana.
For the Toppers, it was a chance to get back on track and also a chance to open conference play with a bit of a clean slate. They were able to take advantage of the situation, outshooting the Panthers 24-1 en route to the 1-0 victory.
If possession is nine-tenths of the law, then the orange and black were the sheriffs and the deputies as the Panthers only crossed midfield a total of two times in the first 20 minutes of the first, but that shutdown style on the part of the Toppers didn’t necessarily translate into instant offense.
Hillsboro was able to move the ball on Pana, that was for sure, but one thing or another would limit the Toppers on being able to put the ball in the back of the net, be it just getting under the ball on a shot or heading it over the crossbar. That would plague the visitors in the early minutes of the first.
Hillsboro would get their first real great chance on net at the 4:30 mark of the half as senior midfielder Gavin Matoush took the throw in deep in the Pana zone and found fellow senior Ethan Lentz in front. Lentz was able to get a foot on the ball but Panther keeper Ryan Karbach showed he was going to be a force as he denied Lentz on the doorstep and sent the ball back up the other way.
Disaster would nearly strike Pana just a minute later as Matoush sent a ball in on frame only to have it deflect off a Panther backliner’s leg and right in on net. Luckily, the ball would sail just over the crossbar and out of play.
The word of the next 10 minutes would be “almost”as the Toppers continued to attack with senior midfielder Ayden Brewer rocking a shot off the post, followed by a nice give-and-go between Lentz and juniors Adison Pollard. Will Christian then created a great chance but, once again, Karbach would end the run and keep the Panthers out of harm’s way.
With 16:30 left in the first, the Toppers would take the first of four corner kicks in a five minute span, each creating a good look on net. First Pollard placed a perfect looping ball in front that Brewer would head over and then another that Matoush would head right into Karbach’s hands.
On their third corner, Hillsboro would change it up a little as they would play the ball back to senior defender Devin Speiser instead of sending the ball in front. Speiser would find himself all alone on the chance but would send his shot up and over, once again ending the drive as the two teams would stay knotted at 0-0 going into the break.
When play resumed in the second half, good fortune would finally shine on Hillsboro as the Panthers were whistled for a handball in the box and Hillsboro was awarded the penalty kick.
Pollard would blast the freebie past Karbach to the low left side to put the Toppers up 1-0 for his first goal of the season.
Hillsboro would nearly double their lead on the ensuing possession as sophomore Logan Murray, using a nice move to fake the Pana defense out of their spikes, worked the ball in all alone only to nail his shot off the post. That’s how the rest of the tilt would be, with the Toppers making runs only to have one thing or another bounce their chances away as they settled for the 1-0 victory.
“The soccer gods aren’t being very kind right now,” Topper coach Jason Burke said. “We had lots of chances and Karbach was spectacular, but man, it’d be nice to have a couple of those bounces go our way. It seems like it’s been that way a bunch this year, where we are oh so close but just don’t finish or just don’t get rewarded the way we feel like we should. (We) gotta keep plugging and hopefully they start to go in.”
The Toppers won’t have to wait long for another chance to step on as they host the Vandalia Vandals this afternoon at the Hillsboro Sports Complex with a varsity only tilt beginning at 4:30 p.m.
September 7 at Pana
Hillsboro 0 1 - 1
Pana 0 0 - 0
Scoring: Hillsboro - Addison Pollard (PK).
Record: Hillsboro (5-3, 1-0).