BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School boys soccer team played for the District 11-5A title on Friday, Jan. 27 against John I. Leonard High School and earned the runner-up spot, falling short 3-1.
It’s the second time this season that the top-seeded Wolverines (11-7-3) fell to the Lancers (14-7). Wellington lost a close battle by a 2-1 score at the first game of the season.
The first half remained scoreless. Wellington had the edge in possession and opportunities; however, the Wolverines were unable to find the back of the net. The Lancers did have two chances in the final minute of the first half, but a stubborn Wellington defense denied any goals, and the teams went into the locker room knotted at zero.
The second half offered plenty of action, particularly in the final 20 minutes, when the scoring broke open. Both teams struggled early in the second half. Wellington spread the ball, passing effectively, and was able to control possession on the attacking third but, again, could not find the net.
The Lancers relied more on quick counters and a long-ball type of attack, which eventually paid off. The Lancers continued relying on their speed, and in the 64th minute, Mario Ponce buried a header off a cross that passed by the Wellington goalkeeper to lift the Lancers into the lead 1-0.
Wellington battled back, but the Lancers struck again, just five minutes later. This time, Juan Cordonza placed a perfect ball from about 35 yards out after a free kick caused by a Wellington hand ball; the shot was placed in the upper right 90 as an extended Wolverine keeper Morgan Suarez leaped up in the right spot but it was just out of reach. The score put Wellington down by two goals late in the match.
Wolverine forward Juan Aguirre found a seam in the Lancer defense and struck the back of the net to cut the lead to 2-1 with less than 10 minutes to play. Wellington continued to press the action in desperation to tie the game.
The Lancers, with three minutes remaining, broke free from a long pass, beating the last defender down the right side. The shot was driven into the opposite corner of the net to give the Lancers back their two-goal lead, 3-1.
The Wolverines again pressed the action, and nearly cut the margin again, but time expired and the Lancers held on for the 3-1 victory and the district championship.
Wellington received the District 11-5A runner-up award, and traveled to play Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday night in the regional quarterfinals, but results were not available by press time.
ABOVE: Wellington keeper Morgan Suarez makes a save in the first half.