Sharon Phoenix lay a goose egg in semifinal loss

  • Sharon Academy's Leland Pelletier (2) heads the ball away from Proctor High's Matt Nop (7) during the second half of a VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Proctor won, 1-0. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell

  • Sharon Academy's Ever Tofel (23) challenges Proctor High's Conner McKearin (22) for control of the ball as the Phoenix's Blair Locke (17) watches during a VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. McKearin scored the only goal of a 1-0 Proctor win. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Proctor High's Joel Denton, center, keeps his eye on the ball as Sharon Academy's Simon North, right, pursues during a VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal at Taranovich FIeld in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Proctor High's Brennon Crossman (13) knocks Sharon Academy's Daniel Henderson (9) off the ball, drawing a first-half foul during a VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Proctor won, 1-0. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Sharon Academy striker Riley Eastman, second from right, heads a late Phoenix corner kick toward the Proctor High net during a 1-0 VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal loss to the Phantoms at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Sharon Academy's Blair Locke (17) is taken down from behind by Proctor High's Cameron Cannucci as Phoenix goalkeeper Ben Rodis, left, watches during the first half of a VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Proctor won, 1-0. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Sharon Academy center back Erik Younce (4) steps up to clear the ball out of danger during a VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal with Proctor at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. The Phoenix's Peter North (8) is in the background. Proctor won, 1-0. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Sharon Academy's Leland Pelletier (2) tries to control the ball under pressure from Proctor High's Brennon Crossman (13) during the second half of the Phantoms' 1-0 VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal win over the Phoenix at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Proctor High's Conner McKearin (22) chases after the ball with Sharon Academy's Ever Tofel (23) during the second half of a VPA Division IV boys soccer semifinal at Taranovich Field in Pittsford, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. McKearin scored the only goal of a 1-0 win for the Phantoms. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 11/5/2020 11:23:57 PM
Modified: 11/5/2020 11:23:43 PM

PITTSFORD, Vt. — The closest the Sharon Academy boys soccer team came to playing chicken on Thursday was the first-half moment when a Proctor High striker had to chase encroaching poultry from a corner of Taranovich Field.

Beyond that, the Phoenix met the challenges of the physical Phantoms and a possible championship date in all facets of the game but one — scoring a goal.

Senior Proctor midfielder Conner McKearin volleyed home a redirected corner kick with 10:33 left in regulation, and third-seeded Proctor held on for a 1-0 win over No. 7 Sharon in a VPA Division IV semifinal. The victory sent the Phantoms (10-2-1) to their first state final in four years and left the Phoenix (8-4-1) stalled on the semi stage for the third time since 2015.

“We play hard and we always compete, and that’s all you can ask for,” TSA coach Blake Fabrikant said. “But we were playing speculative and we were trying the same things that weren’t working. We just weren’t being flexible and adaptable. And unfortunately we didn’t really generate many clean chances.”

The Phoenix’s daily fate has often been determined by senior Erik Younce’s place on the pitch this fall.

When Sharon struggled on offense early in the season, Fabrikant moved Younce to the front line, and he responded with 10 goals in four matches. When junior center back Jaxon Nichols sustained a hip injury late in the regular season, Younce moved back to solidify the defense — but at the expense of the offense.

Sharon couldn’t mount much of an attack against the Phantoms, although striker Riley Eastman forced two good second-half saves from Proctor goalkeeper Ian French. McKearin’s opportunistic finish would be the only time a soccer ball touched twine.

“It was a beautiful corner kick, a beautiful header, and Conner was at the spot,” Proctor assistant coach Jay Wilson said. “He just went there, and we were very fortunate. We were blessed.”

Fabrikant’s biggest concern entering the semifinal was Proctor’s physical reputation. The Phoenix and Phantoms played a pair of one-goal matches during the regular season, each winning on the other’s home turf, and Younce had been among the Sharon players who took hard knocks at some point.

So when Younce cleaned out Proctor’s Brennon Crossman with a hard tackle outside his penalty area early in the match, Fabrikant realized he wouldn’t have to worry about that aspect of the contest. Sharon gave as good as it got in a well-managed match.

“They weren’t as physical as we’d seen,” Fabrikant noted. “We held our own in that regard.”

Younce and fellow backs Simon North and Caleb Benjamin kept McKearin on a short leash. When the quick midfielder did get free, Sharon goalkeeper Ben Rodis (four saves) confidently gobbled up whatever came his way.

Eastman produced Sharon’s first good scoring chance in the match’s 52nd minute. Given room on the left side of the box, the junior right-footed a dipping drive that French (five saves) tapped over the crossbar.

After several open misses, the Phantoms finally broke through in the 70th minute. Matt Nop’s corner kick found Crossman in the right side of the Sharon box, and Crossman nodded to a wide-open McKearin for the sure-footed finish into the low right corner.

A last-minute Sharon corner produced an Eastman header that French secured to end the visitors’ final threat.

“They kept knocking on the door, and they were bound to put one in,” Fabrikant said. “Unfortunately, we were able to generate enough offense.

“You’re always going to win or lose at the end of the year, but it’s unfortunate, I feel, that we didn’t have our best game today,” Fabrikant added. “We could have controlled possession better and played a little more intentionally, but honestly, we had a great season.”

Corner Kicks: Nichols, who played five minutes of Sharon’s quarterfinal win over Rivendell last week before bowing out, didn’t suit up for Thursday’s contest. ... Wing back Benjamin made a 50-second cameo in the Sharon goal just eight minutes into the contest when Rodis had to leave to clean something out of his eye following a goalmouth scramble. Benjamin faced no shots, and Rodis returned without incident. ... Proctor head coach Chad Wilson missed the contest because of a work commitment. ... Sharon is now 0-6 against Proctor in the VPA boys soccer tournament.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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