PLYMOUTH — There was plenty of offense, but the goals were hard to come by in Plymouth’s boys soccer game with Culver Military.
Tuesday’s match shaped out to be a duel between Plymouth goalie Sam Stone and CMA keeper Perley Provost as the two teams leveled a combined 23 shots on frame — 13 by the Eagles and 10 by the home team — and saw countless other shots sail high or wide but wound up with a 1-1 draw.
Neither coach seemed overly disappointed with the result following a spirited, physical match between Warsaw Sectional rivals.
“Both sides created opportunities. They’ve got some guys up there with some speed and some shots,” said CMA head coach Major Kevin Green. “On our side, hitting the post, the side of the net. This is a game that you had to come and watch. Just a great game on both sides.”
“I think both teams really generated some really good scoring opportunities. The pitch was kind of muddy and was giving out underneath them. It was hard to get good quality shots,” said PHS head coach Josh Martin. “There were good opportunities, but getting off a quality shot was tough for us. It hit the frame a couple of times. We had some really good opportunities that dribbled and didn’t have enough pace to get in or went just a little bit wide, a couple good opportunities that went right towards the keeper. If we could’ve got those towards the near post or the far post we could’ve gotten some better shots on those. But, yeah, that one could’ve easily ended up 3-3 or 3-4 or 4-3 or something like that. It was a good defensive game.”
Plymouth broke onto the scoreboard first when junior forward Cesar Aguilar got loose behind the CMA defense on a counter play in the game’s 14th minute and finished off a low dribbler to the near post off the outside of his right foot.
“Cesar is a goal-scorer,” said Martin. “He loves to run at people with the ball at his feet. We snuck in behind them — they were napping a little bit — and once he gets in behind the defense he’s got the quality to be able to finish. We always talk about shots low and hard towards the corners. That ball wasn’t humming but it was placed well, it was low, and those are hard for keepers to get. Two guys chasing him down from behind, that’s tough.”
Despite some fireworks — including a big save of a penalty kick in the 32nd minute — the Rockies remained up a goal at the half.
But CMA came out fast in the second half, and Nick Bissonnette wriggled free for a near-post goal on a Tanner Grant service around a minute and a half into the second period.
Both teams recorded shot after shot, but neither was able to find the back of the net again.
“We had a rhythm going, and we thought we could get around the side and play those balls in and split the defense, but it had to be from a deep run because we’ve been susceptible to going offsides,” said Green of his team’s goal Tuesday. “They took it, they had the opportunity with our forwards coming inside, and he started his run deep and our center forward was able to put that on his feet, which helped him break past the defense.”
While Bissonnette and Aguilar scored goals, the game’s biggest plays came from the keepers.
Perley Provost finished with nine saves in goal, and Stone recorded 12 in the start filling in for usual Rockies first stringer Zach Lee.
Stone’s biggest stop came in the 32nd minute when a foul inside the Plymouth box set up a Grant PK. Stone fired himself up before the set play, and he went right on the kick for a diving deflection that was rebounded by the CMA side but sailed far left to maintain the home team’s 1-0 advantage.
“The goalie’s got to guess or he’s got to wait for the shot to see what happens. A lot of kickers lately have just been going two, three feet wide on one side hoping the goalie got the other side,” said Green. “In this instance, I think our guy chose the wrong side; in practice he tends to go the other way and doesn’t miss. It is what it is — give credit to the goalie for seeing the ball and making the play and then for their defense to follow up on the rebound.”
The Stone parry not only changed the eventual final score, but was likely a momentum saver at the time as well, said Martin.
“If Stone wouldn’t have saved that, the momentum would’ve drastically shifted in their favor I would imagine. They probably would’ve come right out after that goal and sustained that pressure on us and it probably would’ve gotten us out of our game; we probably would’ve had to get in a defensive shell,” said the PHS boss.
“Stone’s an intense kid. It’s tough — we’ve got two great keepers right now, and we talked about Stony deserving some time out there. We’re giving Lee most of our conference games and some of those big games — not that this wasn’t a big one, but we knew that Stone was going to come out here, and we’re not going to miss a bit. He’s real vocal, real intense, and he showed it right there on that save, plus some of the others that he made.”
CMA missed another opportunity late as Plymouth played a man down when a red card was issued to Rockies sophomore mid Kameron Ray with 7:20 left to play. The Eagles’ best attempt came in the 75th minute when Bissonnette kicked a high drive at the Plymouth net and Stone deflected it off the crossbeam.
It was a solid showing for the Rockies reserves playing a man down with Aguilar sidelined since the 58th minute with a hamstring cramp and the team already out two of its usual starters in midfielders Clay Marshall and Ronaldo Garcia.
Jase Allen and Ian Rettig stepped up big off the bench, and Tim Fonseca moved up from the backfield to attacking mid as the home team hung on to preserve the draw.
“That was huge. We gave a few too many whiffs at the net during that seven-minute period after the red card, but luckily Stone made some saves and we cleared the some balls out of that danger area in the box. Some kids really stepped up,” said Martin.
Plymouth moves to 3-6-2 on the season, while CMA moves to 3-3-1.
Both coaches saw Tuesday’s game bring out the best in their players. If they draw each other a third straight year at next month’s Class 2A Warsaw Sectional, both expect more of the same.
“I think it sets us up for Warsaw,” Green said of Tuesday’s draw. “If we get the draw a third year in a row it’s going to be an interesting game. We’re both going to develop as the season goes on. This is our seventh game, and probably our best team game, so it’s going to be something to watch come next month.”
• PLYMOUTH 1, CULVER
MILITARY ACADEMY 1
P — Cesar Aguilar, 14th minute
C — Nick Bissonnette (Tanner Grant), 42nd minute
Shots on goal: Plymouth 10, CMA 13
Saves: Plymouth (Sam Stone) 12, CMA (Perley Provost) 9
Records: Plymouth 3-6-2, CMA 3-3-1
JV score: Plymouth 2, CMA 3