On Wednesday 5 September the Senior Boys Soccer team played their State Finals at the State Football Centre in Thornbury. Rising early for a 7:30am departure, the squad was on time and focused to do well. The team had been training since April and it was to be the last day that this great team would play together. It was down to the last eight teams in the State. They had to negotiate three Round Robin games and hoped to qualify first in their group to make the State Final.
Our first game was against Lavalla Catholic College. Grabbing a late goal just before half time courtesy of Liston Diaz, the boys went in at the break one up. However, it was not to be with a spirited comeback from the opposition resulting in a late equaliser. A draw in the first game was disappointing but it gave the team something to improve upon.
The second game was against Ballarat High. A structural change was made to exploit some more of our strengths and initially it seemed successful. Sean Bass was terrorizing his opponent on his wing, getting in frequent crosses which were unfortunately not taken advantage of. Football is all about taking chances and the ball went up the other end where against the run of the play, Ballarat scored to take a one nil lead at the break.
More changes were made with the side reverting to a back three and an extra attacker thrown on as McKinnon had to win the game to stay alive. With halves only consisting of 15 minutes, it required a herculean effort to overturn a goal deficit. Enter Almog Vernik, who receiving a short corner dribbled his opponent to equalise. Liston Diaz then hit a post with a left foot shot to leave any fingernails I had shredded. Eventually the attacking pressure showed and Liston Diaz slotted home a late winner to make it 2-1 and give the team a fighting chance.
The equation was simple. Beat Balwyn High and we make a State Final. After an even first half, it was nil all. I had to open the game up as we needed to score to go through whereas Balwyn only needed a draw. They did better than that by scoring a goal that killed the game midway through the second half. We still tried to create but it was not to be as we finished 1 nil down.
We finished second in our group with 4 points and fell just short of making a State Final.
The boys were disappointed and so was I at getting so close to fall but how could I fault the effort! How could I fault the commitment! How could I fault the team spirit, banter and camaraderie shown! It was an absolute pleasure to coach such a team who gave their all, listened to my instructions and played football with a passion and spirit rarely seen.
Congratulations to: Liam Atchison, Billy Zontanos, Sean Bass, Lucas Catherall, Liston Diaz, Chris Hoang, Luka Inglis, Tom Johnston, Michael Koletsas, Matthew Main, Liam O’Brien, Eric Pagoulatos, Jonathan Papageorgiou, Johnson Duong, Stefan Simic, Peter Tomaras, Almog Vernik and Jonathan Vernik.