SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – There are moral victories, there are wins, there are big wins and then there are some victories that can carry a team the rest of the season and beyond.
When Saratoga boys soccer captain Tyler Clute got just enough on the ball to have it sneak past previously undefeated Christian Brother Academy goalie Dan Kelly with 3:49 left in the second overtime session Tuesday afternoon, those moments are hard to forget.
“We've been here before, I don't know how many overtimes they've been in,” Saratoga Springs Coach Jeff Geller said. “We're kind of like the team that if you let us stick around long enough our confidence grows and today we were able to get the victory.”
Tuesday’s 2-1 Suburban Council win for the Blue Streaks was their fifth overtime game of the fall that now sports a 3-1-1 record in extra time.
CBA entered the contest undefeated on the year with a 9-0-1 record overall and ranked No. 4 in Monday’s New York State Sportswriter’s Poll in Class AA.
Saratoga was ready to face the top team in the Suburban Council.
“We've been building every game, I've been asking them to do some simple things in the match would put us in a spot to be competitive,” Geller said. “I said today 'Same thing, if you do those simple things and add in some great work rate we'll at least put ourselves in a spot to be competitive.'”
The win or even the opening goal by the Blue Streaks was never guaranteed Tuesday.
Saratoga goalie Conor Chivers chased a loose ball to the right of the goal and failed to secure it as the Brothers defenders were swarming towards the bouncing prize. Senior Gray Groseclose managed to kick the ball out of the box and turn it back up the pitch.
“It was coming in and they almost scored and we had a save right in front of the net and as soon as we got it out we cleared it, played around the left side and that just changed the game right there,” Gray Groseclose said.
Jack Donnelly took the crossed ball and found the back of the net to put the Blue Streaks up 1-0 in the next minute as Saratoga looked to hold on to the precious lead.
Chivers continued to come up with the dramatic and game-saving stops in the second half, diving on a loose ball with under 18 minutes left, turning back a hard shot with both hands in the next minute and then coming out with a slide tackle to boot the ball away with under 12 minutes left to keep the advantage.
The Brothers pressure was finally rewarded when John Mendrysa put in a cross from the right side past Chivers who lost his footing on the wet surface, the product of the morning’s heavy rainfall.
“Even after that first goal we let up, we said 'Keep the same energy, its still 0-0 after they scored,' and we just kept on going through,” Groseclose said.
The two teams battled through the first 10 minute overtime session and it wasn’t until less than four minutes left that Kelly lost his footing and could only get a palm on the ball in the box and was unable to snare it before it crossed the goal line for the Saratoga win.
“They had a bunch of talented players up top and they kept pressing us,” Groseclose said. “Towards the end they played three guys up top and they are all really talented and we were just able to maintain possession and every time just switch it out.
“It was a lucky goal, but I don't want anyone to tell us that we didn't deserve it because we kept putting that pressure on them.”
As a senior captain, Clute believed in his squad heading into the Suburban Council showdown.
“We just wanted to go full speed. We knew that this team was very good going into the match, just like Bethlehem,” Tyler Clute said. “We put in a great team effort today, we all played with each other, and I feel really good today.
“This is one of those close games that we've been having all season, this time we came out on top and it feels really good because they were undefeated.”
The season still has two weeks to go before sectionals, but Tuesday’s win could be part of a pre-game statement from the Blue Streak captain.
“We should remember the feeling we had today and we should want it again every game,” Clute said. “If we can do this, we can beat any team in this league.”