SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP. — When the Meyers boys soccer team boarded the bus to head back to Wilkes-Barre Tuesday night, it did so with a sense of accomplishment but also uncertainty.
The Mohawks’ season was over and with the future of the school up in the air, Tuesday could have been the last time a Meyers boys soccer team suited up.
If that is the case, the Mohawks head home after playing in the program’s first state playoff game, a Class 2A first-round match, in which they forced overtime before falling to District 11 champion Notre Dame-Green Pond 2-1.
Make no mistake. After getting a taste of PIAA competition, the Mohawks didn’t want their campaign to end in the first round, but a season that included the program’s first Wyoming Valley Conference division championship and district final appearance in over a decade and their first trip to states is nothing to take lightly.
In fact, after falling to Scranton Prep 3-1 in the district final, in a game they had trouble finding an offensive groove, Meyers rebounded with a performance that put the Mohawks two and a half minutes from forcing a second overtime.
“The season was fantastic,” Meyers senior defender Tyler Schneikart said. “We had a great group of guys coming in to play, and everything that’s going on with the school — not knowing if Meyers is going to even have a soccer team next year — it’s fantastic to put on the show that we did all season long.
“It’s definitely nice to go out with a bang and show what Meyers could really do. It’s nice to show what the city schools could do. Sometimes we don’t get the recognition that we deserve. We have a lot of kids that work real hard.”
While the Crusaders dominated much of the first half, scoring a goal less than seven minutes into the game, the Mohawks responded before the break.
Dodly Magliore dribbled down the left sideline and sent a crosser toward Tanner Nilon. The freshman forward sent his shot toward the goal and past the Notre Dame-Green Pond keeper. And with that, not only did Nilon tie the game, but he scored Meyers’ first-ever goal in states.
From there the Mohawks were able to hold Notre Dame-Green Pond at bay the rest of regulation and into overtime.
Meyers was less than three minutes from forcing a second overtime, but once the Crusaders were awarded a direct kick just outside of the box, and the Mohawks lined up, Meyers head coach Jack Nolan didn’t have a very good feeling about what was about to happen.
Notre Dame-Green Pond senior midfielder Kaiden Chinchar sent the ball into the box and fellow senior Luke Fleissner headed it into the goal to win the game with 2:25 remaining in the sudden-death period.
“As soon as he took the kick, I said to my assistant next to me, ‘They’re going to score on this one because we left our marks,’” Nolan said. “The ironic thing is it’s one of those things we practiced pretty much before the Prep game and this one. We practiced a lot of set pieces — both for us taking them and defending them.
“They have no reason to hang their heads today. I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
Despite taking the 2-1 loss, Meyers sophomore goalkeeper Joel Vazquez deserves much of the credit for keeping his team in the game all 92:35.
Time after time Vazquez faced point-blank shots from the Crusaders and he came up big. It took a rebound for Notre Dame-Green Pond to score its first goal and a direct kick to notch the game-winner.
“I can’t say enough about our goalkeeper. Joel’s done a tremendous job for us as a sophomore,” Nolan said. “He’s a soccer kid. He plays a lot of travel ball. He’ll go out over the weekend and start playing travel again, and that’s a good thing. He’s a student of the game.”
With rain continuing to come down after the game, Nolan huddled his team in the corner of the field to talk one last time before they loaded the bus to head home.
While their was disappointment among the group, Nolan couldn’t stress how proud he was of his team, taking Meyers farther than it had ever gone before. He was especially proud of his senior class: Schneikart, Johnny Torres, Corey Manganiello, Kyle Ostrowski, Sam Germain, Mellt Molina, Matt Manfre, Jeffrey Yanez and Peter Torres.
As freshmen, the Mohawks went 5-11 and lost in the district quarterfinals as an 11th seed. Fast forward four years and they were playing in the state tournament.
“It’s definitely special, not being here before and having it my last season,” Schneikart said. “Not knowing how we were going to be coming into the season, and to have this good of a year — it’s fantastic.”
Even though the Mohawks will be losing plenty of talent, the future is bright for Meyers.
Of the 11 starters Tuesday night, six will return including Nilon, the team’s leading scorer, Michael Krasnavage, a junior captain, and Vazquez, who was playing his best soccer in the postseason.
“We knew Tanner Nilon, coming up from junior high, was going to be a special player, and it showed throughout the season,” Nolan said. “He’s going to be a special player for us for a quite a few years, so hopefully we’ll be around for a few years to witness him, but I’m looking forward to next year.
“We’re losing some good players, but I think we have a good nucleolus coming back. We have a couple junior high kids I think will be able to come up and contribute for us. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep this run going and put another special run together next year.”
PIAA CLASS 2A BOYS SOCCER
Notre Dame-Green Pond 2, Meyers 1, OT
Notre Dame-Green Pond`1`0`1`—`2
First half — 1. NDGP, Dan Leary (Mark Simonetta), 33:12; 2. MEY, Tanner Nilon (Dodly Magliore), 8:00. Second half — No scoring. Overtime — 3. NDGP, Luke Fleissner (Kaiden Chinchar (2:25).