PHILADELPHIA — Three long years of hard work by The Hill School boys soccer team, the first two of which ended in disappointment, boiled down to penalty kicks Saturday afternoon at Philadelphia University's Ravenhill Field. And this time, with a Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Association championship within their reach for a third straight season, the Blues would not be denied.
The Hill knocked in four straight goals while keeper Shaun Quinn came up with saves on two of three Haverford School shots for a 4-1 win in penalty kicks after the two teams had battled to a 1-1 tie through 80 minutes of regulation play and a pair of five-minute overtimes. That gave the Blues (19-1) their first state title in the third year of the tournament after losing to the Fords (17-5) in the final match of the first two.
"It's a relief,' said Hill senior co-captain Colten Habecker, who had tied the score on a penalty kick with 6:52 remaining in regulation play after Haverford had led since a goal by Jerry Karalis in the 23rd minute. "I'm really happy that we finally did it. Three years of hard work ... after winning the league for the third straight year, we wanted to take it one step further. They have an amazing team. We have a special team.'
"That's been three years in the works, and every month of those three years we've closed the gap,' said Hill coach Chris Drowne. "I think we out-played them. We had more chances. I can't say enough about the effort everyone gave.'
The Blues nearly went on top in the 20th minute on a cross from Mark Forrest to Braden Cordivari, whose header hit the crossbar.
Then the Fords - who had beaten the Blues by a 1-0 score in the final last year and by 2-0 two years ago — took the lead when Sander Yu dumped a beautiful pass from the right flank into the middle of the box to Karalis, who headed it back the opposite way into the right corner of the goal.
That difference held up until the half despite two more serious threats by the top-seeded Blues. Forrest went in on goal alone from the left wing for a blast, but Ford keeper Quinn Letter made a diving save. Then Louis Levin passed to Forrest a minute later for a shot that hit the crossbar from underneath and fell in front of the goal line.
Haverford had a good chance to add to the lead in the second half. But Quinn made a diving stop of a point-blank shot by Conor Bradley after the Ford sophomore had stolen the ball and gone in alone on goal.
Then Quinn made another save on a shot by Bradley a minute after Habecker had tied the score on the penalty kick that was awarded due to a hand ball call in the box.
The Blues shot first in the penalty kick phase and Habecker gave his team the lead. Then Quinn made a diving stop to his right and Will Blake converted his chance for a 2-0 edge. Shane Bradley followed with a goal for the Fords. But Wyatt Fabian knocked one in for the Blues. Then, Quinn came up with another stop on a high shot, and Forrest clinched the shootout with a score.
Quinn, who has been involved with penalty kicks in club play, was happy to see his team shoot first and score.
"It makes you feel so much better,' he said. "I just try to read the eyes, read the hips and go with my gut feeling. It's kind of just your subconscious. You're just going through the motions.'
"Those were saves,' said Drowne. "They weren't mistakes by the other team. They were outstanding saves. And he really made two big plays to keep the score at 1-0.'
Drowne had some trouble choosing five shooters for the penalty kicks, but only because he had so many players capable of putting the ball in the net on his high-scoring squad.
"We have a number of options,' said the Hill coach. "It actually became a tough choice of who to leave out, and they were left out because they were cramping too much.'
Hill senior co-captain Wyatt Fabian thought that going first in the PK's was an advantage.
"You always want to go first,' he said. "It's definitely a confidence booster. (Quinn) had a great game. He's a great penalty stopper.'
All of which gave the Blues an easy penalty kick win after 90 minutes of hard-fought play.
"We really wanted to get it this year,' added Quinn. "We were doing group emails and motivational videos all day ... and the fans really helped as well.'
"For all of my four years, they've been the team to beat,' Fabian said concerning the second-seeded Fords. "We have a special team. We knew we could go the extra yard. We stayed positive. This was definitely one of our most talented teams. The team chemistry we had ... and having lost in the state final, not wanting to go through that again motivated us.'
Drowne gave his team credit for coming through in four must-win contests, including the one that wrapped up the Mid-Atlantic Prep League title last Saturday at Lawrenceville and PAISAA Tournament victories on Tuesday and Thursday.
"Four big matches in eight days is asking a lot,' he said. "The poise and character of this team is deserving of a title.'
The Blues set a school record for wins in a season, one more than the 1988 squad, and tied that team in least goals allowed with 11 in one more match. ... The team also set a school season scoring record with 94 goals. ... Habecker finished with school records in goals in a season with 34 (the old record was 22) and in a career with 60 (the old record was 51). ... The Hill — ranked no. 1 among national prep schools — finished with 13 wins in a row following a 1-0 loss to St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, New Jersey), which was no. 1 in the overall rankings before having a 71-match winning streak broken later in the season.