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IHC sees season end despite dominating Poland

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CAMDEN — This one will hurt for awhile.

After dominating the second-ranked Class D team in the state throughout nearly 95 minutes of regulation play and overtime Saturday, Immaculate Heart Central’s boys soccer team deserved better.

Instead, the Cavaliers could only watch in shock as unbeaten Poland scored the winning goal with just seven seconds left in the first sudden-victory overtime to earn a 3-2 Class D-1 championship game victory at Camden High School.

Poland’s Mark Shelhamer found himself behind the IHC defense on a through pass as the clock wound down. IHC goalie Jarrod Smith tried to reach the ball before Shelhamer, but to no avail. After getting past Smith, Shelhamer directed the ball into the Cavaliers’ goal and the Tornadoes’ celebration began.

“That should be you celebrating,” IHC coach Mary Guyette told her team as No. 2 seed Poland (16-0-3) received its championship banner. “You were the better team today, and know that you gave all you had.”

But in soccer, domination doesn’t always mean victory. IHC (11-7), the No. 5 seed who had knocked off No. 4 Cincinnatus and No. 1 and defending champion Hamilton en route to the finals, had twice the number of good scoring chances, controlled the ball and pressed the attack for a good part of the game.

Yet, the Cavaliers could not finish enough in the scoring zone.

“So many times we missed (scoring) by a few feet,’’ said IHC junior forward Jude Fusilli, who scored the first goal in the opening half and assisted on junior Chris Rowland’s goal in the second half. “But we were either just wide or their keeper made a nice stop.”

Poland goalie Mitch Jones made 15 saves, several of the highlight variety. But Guyette pointed out that if you don’t finish what you start in soccer, often the opposing team finds a way to win.

“We did a terrific job of attacking and working hard for good opportunities,’’ Guyette said. “But once we got in close sometimes we made too many passes instead of putting the ball on goal.’’

Meanwhile, a more physical Poland team was content to just wait for its chances.

IHC was the aggressor from the start, keeping the ball in the Poland end for most of the opening 10 minutes despite a substantial wind in its face.

Poland’s first real counter attack, however, produced a goal. Ross Agen worked past the Cavaliers’ back defense and beat Smith at the 14:02 mark.

The Cavaliers didn’t let up as the second half began, and Fusilli scored from a scramble in the crease to make it 1-1 in the fourth minute.

Fusilli set up Rowland for the go-ahead score in the 16th minute, and Rowland slid the ball past Davis to give IHC a 2-1 edge.

IHC had several other decent scoring chances in the closing minutes. But the tiring IHC defense allowed Poland’s Cody Broadbent to score following a corner kick with 7:14 remaining.

“We lost our legs for a few minutes at the end and it cost us,’’ Guyette said.

IHC took the wind in overtime and kept pressing forward. It appeared there would be a second sudden death overtime when Shelhamer suddenly woke up the Poland fans with his 12th goal of the season.

“It’s an amazing feeling,’’ Shelhamer said. “I don’t know how we did it because IHC was very good.’’

“Two of their three goals were off counter-attacks,’’ Guyette said. “That’s really the one area where we weren’t better.’’

Fusilli credited IHC’s tough Frontier League schedule, in which it lost to five Class A schools, for preparing the Cavaliers for the sectional run.

“We knew we could compete with schools like Hamilton and Poland after playing teams like Watertown and Indian River twice,’’ Fusilli said. “It’s just a shame how this game ended.’’

The future is bright, however, as Guyette loses only one senior starter. “The kids work hard and play a lot of soccer to improve their skills,’’ she said. “Hopefully, we can be back here next year and do better.”

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