A controversial penalty kick just seconds before halftime gave Piedmont a 1-0 playoff win over St. Mary’s on a cold Wednesday night, ending the Panthers’ season.
The loss in the first round of the 2A North Coast Section playoffs gave St. Mary’s a final record of 9-10-2 on the season. Piedmont improved to 10-6-3 and will play a second-round game against Las Lomas on Saturday.
Piedmont also avenged a 1-0 loss to St. Mary’s during the regular season. In the earlier meeting, Piedmont missed a penalty kick that would have tied the game.
This time, Piedmont’s Gabe Arce-Yee converted the 45th-minute penalty kick past goalkeeper Nick Osborn after the referee ruled that Stephon McGrew fouled the Highlanders’ Brian Trowbridge just inside the penalty area. Trowbridge had made a 50-yard run down the left flank before encountering McGrew.
“I thought that Stephon was just still going forward, and the guy dove after that,” St. Mary’s coach Teale Matteson said. “The fall was not affected by that. [The referee] was on top of it. He called what he saw.”
“I thought it was outside the box,” Piedmont coach Pat Keohane said. “I didn’t know it was inside the box.”
Trowbridge’s run was one of many Piedmont had on the night. The Highlanders’ Simon Campodonico, in particular, tore down the flanks time and time again, as St. Mary’s played with its four midfielders close to the middle of the field. In the earlier meeting between the schools, Piedmont could not take advantage of the flanks on the narrow confines of St. Mary’s field. Piedmont’s field is wider than St. Mary’s field, but Matteson wouldn’t use that as an excuse.
“It was a non-factor,” he said. “We made the adjustments.”
Osborn did not save the penalty kick, but he was the Panthers’ best player in the game. Of his several saves, none was more brilliant than the one in the 58th minute, when a perfect Piedmont free kick found the head of Campodonico, whose header was going into the goal before Osborn somehow dove to the right in time to deflect the ball wide of the goal. In the process, the keeper banged his head into the goalpost, and the match had to be stopped for a couple of minutes before Osborn was judged ready to play.
“Their keeper is a pretty awesome guy,” Keohane said. “That was a great save.”
Osborn saw plenty of the ball because Piedmont had most of the possession in the game. The Highlander midfielders and forwards made the Panthers chase and chase and chase while creating numerous chances. St. Mary’s, playing for the counterattack, had only a handful of chances. When St. Mary’s did get the ball in attacking position, forwards Pat McMahon and Andrew Nackerud was usually surrounded by defenders and took a tough shot that was off the mark.
“I thought their backline was vulnerable,” Matteson said. “They played a couple of offside traps that prevented us from being able to get a line on the goal. We didn’t quite have our midfield control at the point where we could get the shots off that would have really tested their keeper.”
The Panthers’ last chance came on a long ball that Daniel Penza launched from just inside his team’s half to teammate Luis Perez on the left flank. Perez’s shot deflected off of a Piedmont player over the goalline for a St. Mary’s corner kick. Andres Alegria took the ensuing corner, which a Piedmont defender cleared to midfield. St. Mary’s defender Brendan Slevin lofted the ball back into Piedmont’s penalty area, but goalkeeper Brett Baker caught it.
“Great season,” Matteson said. “Good experience. It’s too bad we couldn’t move onto a second-round postseason game. That was our goal, and we’d liked to reach it next time.”