DOVER — A corner kick in the 16th minute bounced off a defender and into the net, and that own goal held up as Archmere, the top seed in Division II, defeated No. 2 Wilmington Friends, 1-0, for the DIAA state championship on Nov. 16 at Dover High School. It was the first soccer state title in school history.
The corner, taken by senior Andrew Rosenbaum, was set up after a good hustle play by the Auks. Rosenbaum took control of the ball near midfield and sent a pass up the right side to Ben Meredith. Meredith’s cross was knocked over the end line by the Quakers.
Rosenbaum sent the inbounds pass right to the front post. It got through Quakers goalkeeper Liam Hudgings, then bounced off the back of the leg of a defender and into the net.
“They didn’t have anybody front post, and I saw Joseph Iacono standing on the keeper,” Rosenbaum said. “There was a big gap between their guy who was standing with Oryem (Kilama of Friends), and I thought I could play the ball into Joseph, and he just got in front of the keeper, made him miss the ball, and the defender kind of just bumped it in. Without Joseph being there, we never would have scored that goal, so I owe all props to him.”
The Auks were ahead, but there was plenty of soccer to play on a frigid evening.
The goal seemed to give Archmere a boost, but the Quakers controlled the tempo throughout much of the first half. Evan Arai nearly put Friends ahead in the 10th on a free kick, but the shot went between the soccer and football crossbars.
“We were definitely a little shook in the beginning when they were pressing a little bit high, but we knew the long ball was definitely what they were looking for and that pace up top. But once we contained up top, we were able to defend pretty well,” senior Carter Galbus said.
The teams traded unsuccessful corner kicks midway through the first, but neither came very close to resulting in a goal.
Hudgings was tested right out of the chute after intermission by the Iacono twins, and he was up to the task. He made a sliding save in the 42nd minute, robbing Joseph Iacono. Four minutes later, Hudgings committed highway robbery on Christian Iacono, leaping to punch away a rising shot.
Joseph Iacono nearly scored on the resulting corner, but he tapped the inbounds inches wide to the left.
The Quakers pushed the pace while attempting to equalize, and that led to two chances. First, Arai and Auks goalkeeper Niko Triantafillou raced for a through ball in the 18-yard box, with the keeper getting there first. Seconds later, Quakers sniper Oryem Kilama sent a sharp-angle shot just wide left.
Triantafillou said he was certain he could get to the ball before Kilama.
“I know he’s a fast player, and I know he’s got great foot skills, but I was very confident in my ability to just snatch it from his feet. He got right back up, and I beat him to the tackle,” he said.
The Auks had a few chances to add an insurance goal as the half progressed, but Rosenbaum was just wide on one attempt, and a shot off a corner kick in the 69th minute was over the net. Rosenbaum gave credit to the Quakers’ Jack Taylor for interrupting his attempt and added that an insurance marker would have made the Auks feel a whole lot better.
“I kind of got a little nervous just because it was a one-goal game. They were really pressing for it. It would have been really nice to get that second goal, but I’m happy we got the win,” he said.
Friends kept the pressure on through the end. Triantafillou was called upon to make one more save, on a bending shot by Jonathan Finizio in the 78th minute. Finally, the Quakers were awarded a free kick after a hand ball a few feet outside the 18-yard box in the closing seconds, but Kilama’s shot was low and flew into a group of bodies in front of the net.
When it was over, the Auks headed over to their student section. The celebration was just beginning.
Archmere had an 8-5 edge in shots and 8-3 in corner kicks. The Auks finished the season 17-1, while Friends came in at 15-1-2.
Gallery photos: Don Blake