Balanced Penfield boys roll into AA finals

The Penfield team congratulates Victor on a well-played season.

By PAUL GOTHAM

PENFIELD, N.Y. —  A late-season wake-up call continued to pay dividends for the Penfield boys’ soccer team.

Five different players found the back of the net Monday night as the Patriots cruised in Class AA semi-final action.

“That’s probably the best we’ve played all year as far as finishing-wise, defensive-wise,” Penfield head coach John Cotsonas said after a 6-0 win over league rival, Victor. “Our guys are focused in the right direction. They just want to get the job done.”

In their quarter-final matchup with Webster Schroeder, the Patriots scored twice in the opening three minutes of the match on the way to a 4-nil win.

On Tuesday night, Penfield pressured Victor soon after the opening kickoff with Shane McMillan taking a Mark Zilist lead in the third minute for a shot that went just wide of frame. The Patriots earned a free kick moments later, and Blue Devil keeper Connor Cronin nudged a ball off the foot of Cristiano Mounnarat over the bar.

Tahj Mounnarat would not be denied, though. When teammate Gibson Spector challenged a Cronin clearing, the senior midfielder gathered the ball and with the Victor keeper off his line struck from 40 yards away. It was the first of three Penfield tallies before halftime.

“I wasn’t expecting a 40-yard lob shot for the first goal,” Cotsonas said smiling through his COVID-required mask. “Tahj has tried those shots since he was on the field as a freshman. One of these times it had to go. It put us in the right frame of mind.”

Cotsonas pointed to the last game of the regular season against Rush-Henrietta as motivation for his squad’s success in the opening moments of the past two sectional contests.

“We felt that we were really flat,” he said of his squad’s effort in the first 40 minutes of a 3-nil win over the Royal Comets. “We talked about that yesterday in training. We talked about it in our pre-game meeting.

“That sense of urgency was there as soon as the kick was ready to go.”

McMillan followed Mounnarat’s score taking advantage of a giveaway along the right side near midfield for a 30-yard rush and finish opposite side netting. Zilist ran on to a Cristiano Mounnarat pass on the left side and cut toward the corner of the 18-yard box before going near post for a three-goal advantage heading into the break.

If it wasn’t already, McMillan put the game out of reach midway through the second half.

Joe Vogt converted a penalty kick, and Jack Walsh caught Jack Murty in stride for the final goal.

The win was the third this season for Penfield over Victor with the other decisions coming by scores of 2-1 and 4-nil.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Cotsonas said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be six-nothing. I was expecting it to be tight. They are really, really well-coached. They’re always good competition, and they really like to play. Shocked that was the score.”

The shutout was the ninth this season for Penfield (12-0-0) and sixth straight. The Patriots haven’t allowed a goal since October 24th and that blemish came during the second half of a 7-1 triumph. They have surrendered just four tallies during this pandemic-shortened campaign.

With the win, Penfield advanced to the sectional finals for the first time since sharing the Class AAA title with Webster Schroeder in 2010.

“We’ve been stuck in the semis a couple times, but this group is determined which has been nice. We’ve got great leadership from our two captains. Tahj and Joe do a great job of putting these guys in the right frame of mind.”

Penfield will face another league rival in Fairport when the final kicks off on Wednesday.

In a rematch of last year’s Class AA final, Fairport beat McQuaid 3-1 to reach the championship game.

The Patriots have won twice over Fairport by scores of 2-0 and 1-0.

“We’re excited about the chance on Wednesday. Everybody’s bumped and bruised. We got a shot, and that’s all that we were asking when we started in September.”

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