WILMINGTON — Jake Ross had two goals and an assist as Salesianum earned another trip to the DIAA Division I soccer final with a 3-1 win over Middletown on Dec. 9 at Abessinio Stadium. The Sals will play Appoquinimink in a rematch of the teams’ Oct. 29 matchup, a 3-0 Jaguars win.
For the second straight tournament game, the second-seeded Sals came out with the field seemingly tilted in their favor. They pressured the Cavaliers’ defense relentlessly, and in the first 10 minutes of the half they earned eight corner kicks. Most did not result in a serious goal-scoring opportunity, although on one Coleson Stewart, the Middletown goalkeeper, was forced to make a diving save.
That changed in the 23rd minute. This time, the Sals set up in front of Stewart. Noah Holgado found Ross near the top of the 18-yard box to the keeper’s left, and Ross sent a laser into the far side of the net for the 1-0 lead.
On a Salesianum possession 11 minutes into the second half, they played the waiting game, and it paid off. The Sals took the ball back into their own defensive end and ran time off the clock until No. 6 Middletown sent a few attackers in their direction. A long pass out of that end found Ross about 25 yards from the goal. He sent a crossing pass into the middle, and Ethan Hinds one-timed a curving roller off Stewart’s fingertips and into the net.
For a while, that insurance goal looked like plenty of scoring for Salesianum, but Middletown was able to mount some pressure. The Cavaliers had one goal disallowed on an offside call, but they would finally solve Sals goalkeeper Sam Donnelly in the 69th.
Some sustained pressure resulted in a corner kick, and the inbounds pass barely eluded Donnelly’s outstretched glove. Micah Katzman-McGhee was right behind him, and he headed the ball into the net to cut the Cavs’ deficit in half.
Salesianum went back on the attack with their lead at one. After a foul on the Cavaliers at midfield, Cal Walsh quickly restarted play and sent the ball deep toward the end line to the right of the Cavaliers’ goal. Hinds took the ball from a defender, and with the keeper off his line, he sent a pass to a wide-open Ross. Ross had nothing but open space in front of him, and he added an insurance marker in the 75th minute.
Sallies finished with a 14-5 shot advantage, and were listed with eight corner kicks to Mddletown’s two, although the Sals certainly had more corners. Donnelly had four saves. The Sals improved to 11-1. The championship game against top-seeded Appo begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Dover High School. The Sals and Jaguars have met four times in the finals, all Salesianum victories (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018).
Stewart had nine saves for the Cavaliers, who finished the season 9-3.