By Kyle LoJacono
The Steinbrenner boys soccer team showed it has the firepower and defense to make a deep playoff run with its 6-0 dismantling of Plant on Jan. 6.
The Warriors (10-1-2) scored in a variety of ways, including two goals off free kicks and another on a corner, while the backline stifled the Panthers attack for most of the evening.
Five Steinbrenner players scored, with Jason Collister notching a pair.
“It felt really good to score two goals to help our team,” said Collister, a junior forward/midfielder. “Trying to accomplish our goal of winning states.”
Logan Siben got the Warriors on the board in the 20th minute, while Derek Gebhard and Elliot Smith added goals before halftime. Collister recorded his tallies in the 52nd and 59th minute, and Brett Wilkosz found the back of the net with just more than 8 minutes left.
Steinbrenner coach Chad Ebright said the offense is improving, but still needs some work.
“We’ve really had a hard time finding the back of the net this year, but the guys are coming together,” Ebright said.
The defense limited Plant to six shots, many of which posed little threat.
“Our defense was playing really organized,” said senior defender Austin Renz. “Everybody was talking and doing what they needed to get the ball out to our forwards so they could do the rest.”
Renz was also a factor in the attack. He took a free kick around midfield that set up Collister’s second goal. He also made the heads-up decision to execute a short throw-in deep in Panther territory to Gebhard, who sent a cross pass to Collister for his first tally.
“We do a lot of long throw-ins and teams push back, so every once in a while you can do a short one just to catch them off guard,” Renz said.
Ebright said of Renz, “He’s been a captain since his sophomore year, our first year when we opened up, and he has been the most consistent player we have had in our history. He’s going to be missed, and not just on the field because he’s one of the best kids I’ve ever met.”
The Warriors girls tied Plant 1-1 in the early game, but the defending Class 4A state champions controlled the ball for most of game.
Steinbrenner (12-3-2) forced eight corner kicks, including five before the water break midway through the first half, but seemed to lose focus following the stoppage. The Panthers (12-1-1) capitalized with a goal in the 33rd minute.
The Warriors regained the upper hand after halftime, peppering Plant goalkeeper Kara Looby with seven shots. Steinbrenner broke through in the 74th minute off a corner kick by Alexis Bredeau that was buried home by Jessica Taylor. It is only the third goal the Panthers have allowed all year.
“The first 20 minutes we were pretty much in control,” said Steinbrenner coach Robert Woodard. “We had five corner kicks, we just didn’t finish our opportunities. Then they got that one little goal and we went through a little dead spell. I’m really happy we did what we did. We were pushing for a game winner at the end. I was really happy with our effort. … If we can beat Plant, and in my book we pretty much did that today, I think we can go deep in the playoffs.”
Taylor said scoring late gives them self-assurance they can get goals when they need to.
“When you score a late goal like that it gives me confidence and the team confidence,” said Taylor, a freshman midfielder.
Warriors goalkeeper Stephanie Hirsch, who had seven saves, gave a solid performance despite having a painful knee injury. Woodard gave credit to the junior for fighting through.
“I try to talk them out of playing when they’re hurt, but that isn’t going to happen especially with Stephanie,” Woodard said. “I know better because they’re going to play. I knew she was going to give a great effort tonight and she really made a big difference.”
Steinbrenner hosts Bloomingdale on Friday, Jan. 13. The girls play at 6 p.m. with the boys following around 8 p.m.