Wolves get past rival Panthers on penalties
By Jeff Davis
Here’s a soccer rarity: Junior Sean Phetchanpheng not only is Oswego East’s starting goalkeeper, but also the team’s leading scorer.
Accordingly, Phetchanpheng put both his goal stopping and goal scoring skills on display during penalty kicks Tuesday to help the host Wolves top crosstown rival Oswego 1-0 (4-2 on PKs) in a Southwest Prairie Conference game that was postponed from Thursday.
Phetchanpheng came up with a spectacular save against Oswego’s Juan Carlos Mora on the third penalty kick, making a diving leap to his left to bat the ball out of the air one-handed to highlight his first shutout of the season.
And then Phetchanpheng scored the Wolves’ next PK goal despite Oswego goalie Christian Torres getting a hand on the ball on a dive to his right for a 3-1 lead in the shootout.
Senior Nathaniel Paisley, sophomore Alex Santillan and senior Anthony Padilla also converted their PKs for East as darkness fell.
“That was my first good save on a penalty kick. It feels great,” said Phetchanpheng, who finished with 13 saves.
“I use that (one-handed technique) because I get more reach instead of two hands. It’s a relief knowing you can relieve the pressure, knowing you made a save that can possibly win the game for your team.
“(PKs are) intimidating. It’s always nerve-racking. I've just got to put my mindset to it, like I need to do my job and block each shot and hope my team can put in the rest.”
The 5-foot-6 Phetchanpheng had been sharing the goalkeeping duties with junior Luis Alday, which allowed him to score a team-high eight goals as a forward.
But with Alday sidelined by a back injury, Phetchanpheng is now playing goalie full time.
“He does a lot for us,” Paisley said of Phetchanpheng. “He has a great vertical (leap) obviously. He’s small, but he saves a lot of the good shots so that helps a lot.”
Phetchanpheng made another outstanding save with 30 seconds left in the second of two 10-minute overtime periods, leaping to make a one-handed punch on the ball over the net.
“He’s something special,” East coach Steve Szymanski said. “(Oswego’s) one assistant (coach) said, ‘That goalie’s made the best saves we’ve seen.’ It’s a tough spot because he’s our leading goal scorer, too. But if he’s not in between the pipes, we’re not in the game.”
Padilla earned the game ball after making the decisive penalty kick following Oswego’s Daniel Fernandez’s conversion that had trimmed the Wolves’ lead to 3-2.
Oswego also chipped a PK attempt over the net, while Panthers’ goalie Torres deflected the Wolves’ sole miss off the crossbar.
Padilla put his game-winner into the upper part of the net over Torres after getting the call because of a couple of injuries.
“My first PK in high school ever,” Padilla said with a big smile. “I’m defense, I usually don’t take them.
“I’m thinking we worked hard the entire game, so this is my opportunity to help the team out and get the win. I was kind of looking at the (right) corner to try to make the goalie think I was going that way and then I went the other way.”
The win was only the second for East (3-9-3, 2-3 in SPC) in its last eight games. During that stretch, the Wolves have scored only six goals and been shutout three times.
Likewise, Oswego (4-7-4, 2-3) has now been shutout in four of its last five games, and the Panthers came up empty despite tallying 31 shots with 13 on goal against the Wolves.
Meanwhile, East’s offensive struggles continued, as it managed only 10 total shots, with only four on goal, but had two near misses.
Christian Vazquez sent a nice lead pass to fellow senior Alex Esquivel for a one-on-one break, but Esquivel’s shot hit off the left post midway through the first half. Vazquez hit the crossbar with a 30-yard shot in the second half.
“Both teams have just struggled to find the net. It’s kind of been the story for us,” Szymanski said. “A lot of teams I’ve seen are struggling with scoring.
“We’ve been working, we’ve been shooting, we’ve been doing all kinds of drills, trying to get it as game like as possible, but sometimes it’s hard to simulate a game situation in practice.
“You’ve got to come down and get it done. A lot of it is we don’t get the best touches around the goal and that puts us in bad positions.”
To help try to bolster the Wolves’ attack, Szymanski has promoted freshman forwards Jackson Frazor and Mike Bozett, who both started Tuesday, and freshman midfielder Victor Cuevas.
“They’re just aggressive kids,” Szymanski said of Frazor and Bozett. “I have a couple kids who haven’t been scoring, haven’t been producing that much and wanted to get a little spark out of them and I think they provide that.
Jackson and Mike Bozett are scrappers and that’s something they’ll create for us hopefully. They play with a lot of energy, they’re all over the place and they’re the future of our program, so any experience we can get them and get them used to that varsity feeling is good for them.”
East’s defense bent but didn’t break as Oswego was unable to finish some quality chances and seemed to rush others as the back line of seniors Danny Madrigal, Josh Walter and Padilla and junior Arnold Arevalo applied pressure.
“We stepped more quickly on all of our pressure and our midfielders stepped up right away,” Paisley said. “I think our defensive back four played a solid game.
“The left and right back stepped up today, Anthony and Josh played well and we stopped them well on the outside, stopped them from getting good shots.”
Oswego took several shots that sailed over the net, including two from close range, the second of which came after the Wolves’ defense blocked a first attempt in the final seconds of the second OT period.
“Our defense most of the time keeps us in the game,” Szymanski said.
“Our biggest thing this year has been we’ve just had a lot of let ups, and today I don’t think we did, or the ones that we did they didn’t capitalize on. There were a couple balls that we missed and they put some shots over. We were pretty fortunate with that.”
Madrigal also made a fine play in the second half, seeming to come out of nowhere to clear away Rodolfo Moreno’s potential breakaway.
“Danny’s been our best player all year,” Szymanski said. “He’s strong, he’s physical, he wins balls in the air. When he’s back there, it’s safe.”
Madrigal left the game with a rib injury, with midfielder Paisley filling in nicely on defense to help preserve the shutout.
“I’ve played defense before with my club when I was younger, but I haven’t played it in a while. But I was ready to step up,” Paisley said. “I pay attention a lot in practice when the defense is doing their drills, so I was ready to do it.
“We needed a win. It’s big for us.”