LCAA Boys Soccer: Hornell 1, Livonia 0
HORNELL — It would have been easy for Hornell High's soccer team to be somewhat intimidated by Livonia in the first meeting between two of Livingston County's "Big Three" at Maple City Park Tuesday.
Hornell hadn't beaten the Bulldogs — two-time defending Section V, Class B champs, and the co-champs in Class B one year prior — in nearly five seasons, and all the Red Raiders had to show for the efforts over during that stretch were what head coach Jim Tobin referred to as "a few ties and some hard-fought games."
After netting the lone goal of the first half — and the entire contest for that matter — the Red Raiders held off a furious rally attempt and also got a few fortunate bounces to go their way en route to a 1-0 LCAA Division I shutout.
"We're probably talking about 10 games," Tobin said when asked about the drought in games against Livonia. "Tonight, they were ready to play. The make-up of this team is a bit different. We weren't overly excited, especially with the lead at halftime. The feeling wasn't, 'wow, we can play with these guys.'
"I really thought that the first half was pretty even. But in the back of my mind I was also thinking, 'Livonia Is Livonia, and they're good.' But I have a lot of faith in these guys, too, and I really think we have a very good team this year. We fought hard and I think we got a fair result tonight."
Matt Kays accounted for what would end up as the difference-maker, netting a Kane Countryman pass just past the midway point of the first half.
"Matt Kays is as talented with a soccer as they come," Tobin lauded. "So far this year he has been nothing but special. He's got a good attitude, he's working hard and he's really stepped up. On that goal, Kane just found him on a nice pass, and Matt just beat a couple of defenders and then beat the keeper. Obviously, he hurt himself and we were forced to play the remainder of the game without that weapon. The other kids stepped up. Hopefully, Matt can heal up and be ready for Saturday.
"He said he twisted his knee when he shot the ball," Tobin added when asked about the injury. "We'll get him over to the doctor and see what happens."
Coming into Tuesday's contest, HHS had already survived a pair of one-goal games, including one over the weekend in the championship round of the Olean Tournament — Hornell clipped Bradford (Pa.), 3-2. Tobin said he felt those tight contests helped prepare his team for the early-season battle with the Bulldogs.
"One of the things about this group is that they're already playing with a lot of confidence," Tobin said. "In the win over Bradford, we were down 1-0 at halftime and there wasn't a worry. Nobody panicked. And that team was good, but it wasn't Livonia good. Even today, being ahead one, we knew we just had to keep fighting and fighting. Those games helped. The Way-Co game. You play those tough games on the schedule the entire year. There aren't going to be many down games."
Ray Maxwell, head coach at Livonia, agreed.
"It's the first league game and it's tough to get behind (in the standings) early," he said. "Hornell played great. They're always well-coached and I thought they played very, very well. Then, they had to do it without their goal-scorer for most of the game and he was giving us some fits. We played quite well at times, but we just couldn't break them down. We needed a break at someplace along the line and we just didn't get it. And as I told our kids, there are seven leagues games left. It's a strong division and teams beat one another up a bit. So if we win the rest of them we're all set."
The Bulldogs had three quality opportunities in the second half. One shot attempt, with just under 12 minutes to play in regulation, ricocheted off the top of the crossbar and bounced straight down before HHS tender Josh Harrison was able to corral the bar. Another shot — this time with 4:25 left on the clock — careened along the top of the crossbar and was eventually cleared. Finally, with 2:05 to play, a Livonia striker floated one last chance over the top of the bar and through the football uprights.
"When that first one hit the post, I said to myself, 'that's the kind of stuff that has gone against us the last few seasons in games such as this,'" Tobin noted. "Sure, unfortunate for them, but we've been there and we know how that feels. I think we obviously had a little bit of the luck on our side this time around."
"Given the players that we have, we really didn't create a lot of great chances," Maxwell said. "We didn't make their goalie work at all, he hardly had to make a save. A little bit of luck certainly would've helped there. If the one that had bounced up and into the net, the momentum swings and you've got a chance to get a late winner or even an overtime winner. We've done that before down here, but it just wasn't meant to be. Tonight, you've just got to give a lot of credit to Hornell and their effort."
With five minutes remaining in the first half Livonia appeared ready to net the equalizer. However, Hornell's defense withstood the attack and managed to take the one-goal cushion into the intermission.
"At halftime, we had sort of lost the momentum," Tobin said. "I wanted to give the starters a rest and the subs came in an did a good job. But we may have subbed one too many times, or Livonia may have picked it up a notch, too. I would probably put it on Livonia picking it up."
"I thought we had some momentum going, yeah," Maxwell said. "Again, if we pick up a goal there, things might have turned around. We went without scoring and we got a little frustrated. We made some changes and I'm not sure if those changes were good. It was just one of those games. We could never get that one goal and never had a chance to break it open with a momentum shift."
Livonia (4-1, 0-1 LCAA D-I) ended up with a 15-9 advantage in shots on goal as well as a slim 6-4 differential in the corner-kick column.
Harrison ended up with eight saves in the second shutout of his senior campaign.
Livonia has a full seven days off before it's scheduled to meet up with LeRoy on the road Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. Two days later, it's back to LCAA D-I action vs. Way-Co.
"It doesn't get any easier. LeRoy is a good team and we've got a heck of a tough schedule this year," Maxwell said. "I'm just disappointed we didn't create much offense tonight. I thought we started shaky in the back. Again, just one of those nights."
The Raiders (4-0, 2-0 LCAA D-I) is off until Saturday when they head to Dansville for a 5 p.m. start. The Mustangs (2-3, 1-0 LCAA D-I) earned their second win of the year Tuesday night, clipping rival Wayland-Cohocton, 3-1, on the road.
"Thankfully, we have couple of days to relax and get rested up. Some of the guys are pretty banged up," Tobin said. "Dansville has struggled a little bit so far, but they've got a couple of good players, including (Nick) Vogler who is probably as good as anybody offensively. A few years ago I said, 'we created a monster with Dansville when they beat us in sectionals,' and it's been a roller coaster ever since. They've taken that momentum for a good ride. And they're still a good team."