POTTSTOWN — To say that The Hill School boys soccer team came out firing in Thursday afternoon's Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Association semifinal would certainly be no exaggeration
It took the Blues just 17 seconds to score and only five more minutes after that to add a second goal in a 5-0 win over Shipley School at Harry Price Field.
That sends The Hill (18-1) into the championship match against Haverford School, which won on penalty kicks against Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, for the third straight year Saturday at 2 p.m. at Philadelphia University's Ravenhill Field.
Colten Habecker scored twice, including the goal that came practically off the opening kickoff, and Shadrach Ekeh, Mark Forrest, and Louis Levin added a goal apiece for the tournament's top-seeded squad. Jake Trachtenberg came up with 10 saves for the fourth-seeded Gators (17-5-3).
"Our pace of play today was a lot better than the other day,' said Hill coach Chris Drowne, whose team did not score until the 57th minute of a 2-0 win over Friends' Central on Tuesday. "There's a natural lull after the Lawrenceville match (a 4-0 win on Saturday that clinched a third straight Mid-Atlantic Prep League title for the Blues). It took a while to get our legs back. The pace of play made it tough for them to deal with."
'"The last couple matches we started out more slowly than we wanted to,' added Hill senior center midfielder John Rader, whose team scored just once in the first half at Lawrenceville. "Obviously, we know what we're capable of. We let it rip. We were a lot looser.'
The Blues knocked the opening kickoff into the backfield to set things up, Levin took a pass and chipped the ball to Habecker, the Gator goalkeeper came out to try to break up the play, and Habecker punched one into the wide open net from 25 yards out.
Then Hill School, which racked up eight corner kicks in the first half and wound up with an 11-1 advantage in that statistic, kept attacking in wave after wave the rest of the half.
Trachtenberg made a good save on a point-blank blast by Rader and knocked a follow-up try by Forrest high in the air, but Ekeh was right there when the ball came down and deposited it into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead 5:23 into the match.
The shots and goals kept coming after the halftime break as Jimmy Davidson assisted on a goal by Forrest 10 minutes in. Then Habecker settled a corner kick from the right from Levin, dribbled a few steps to his right, and drilled one into the far corner with 9:20 to go. Levin wrapped up the scoring 41 seconds later when he took a pass from Habecker and dribbled through the last two defenders for a shot from right out in front.
"I think we controlled all three thirds of the pitch convincingly tonight,' said Drowne.That resulted in just two shots on goal the entire time against Hill keeper Shaun Quinn, who stopped a breakaway blast by Nico Rubino in the 16th minute and another that was headed toward the right corner when Brandon Peltz got behind the defense with 15 minutes to go.
"Credit to the defense,' said Rader. "(Senior defenseman) Wyatt (Fabian) has been doing it all year.'
That set up the third title match between Hill and Haverford in the third year of the tournament's existence. Haverford, this year's second seed and 17-2-1 on the year, won by a 2-0 score two years ago and 1-0 last season.
"Haverford is definitely the big game we wanted, ever since we saw the bracket,' said Rader. "We're glad they made it because of our history against them.
'"The guys have worked really hard to earn another chance at the match that has been a close one the last couple of years,' Drowne added.