Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Senior striker Nick Sodini was just a freshman the last time Canon-McMillan defeated Peters Township in boys soccer. He’s seen close matches slip away and his biggest rivals reach the top of the WPIAL. The Big Macs’ leading scorer heard whispers this is the year it comes to an end, but he hasn’t listened.
As Sodini fought through being shadowed by multiple defenders in the first half Thursday night, all he cared about was finding some room to help that streak come to an end. The patience paid off.
Sodini scored two second-half goals to lift Canon-McMillan to a 3-1 victory over Peters Township in a Section 5-AAA match.
It was the Big Macs’ first win over the Indians since the first round of the PIAA playoffs in 2012 and for the first time in the regular season since Oct. 19, 2010.
Canon-McMillan (5-0, 9-0) looked very much like a program that returned the bulk of its roster, while the Indians (2-2-1, 5-3-2) struggled at times after losing eight starters from last season, which ended with state and WPIAL championships.
Fending off a defender, senior midfielder Luke Maher directed a cross pass toward the net, where Sodini was there to redirect it to the near post and into the back of the net for the 2-1 lead in the 11th minute of the second half. A little more than two minutes later, Sodini won a one-on-one with some creative dribbling and fired a rising shot from 15 yards for the two-goal advantage for Canon-McMillan, which is one of three undefeated teams in Class AAA.
He almost completed the hat trick with 13 minutes, but missed a diving header in the box. After a difficult first half where Sodini was marked by an Indians defender, he found space and made the difference.
“It was a little frustrating in that first half, but I got a little wider, which opened up space and they just started feeding me balls,” Sodini said. “I just had to take advantage.”
Peters Township pressured the Big Macs’ defense in the opening minutes and created scoring chances on set pieces by winning battles to loose balls. But it did not earn a corner kick until the 18th minute of the second half and could not contain Sodini in a five-minute span.
“We had a bad five minutes in the second half,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “The better team won tonight, there’s no doubt, but those five minutes really hurt us. They pinned us in, they kept it and got two goals, but we had our chances. I don’t see there’s that much separation between the two teams.”
Sophomore striker Logan Brinsky came close to scoring in the 20th minute, but he could not collect a lead pass until the last second, when Canon-McMillan senior goalkeeper Christian Snatchko met him to stop the shot.
Less than two minutes later, a foul gave Brinsky a free kick from 25 yards. Instead of firing a shot on net, Brinsky placed a touch pass through a group of defenders and into the box, where senior midfielder Brady Pike directed it in for a 1-0 lead.
Sophomore defender Jonah Moore’s free kick from 50 yards was deflected just wide of the goal in the 14th minute, and three minutes later another free kick by Sodini hit the crossbar. The pressure finally paid off when Moore collected a ball at midfield, sprinted up the sideline and fired a rising shot from 25 yards that soared into the back of the net to tie the score 1-1.
Peters Township, which has just six goals in three matches against opponents with winning records, already has more losses this year than it did in 24 matches a year ago.
“We try to be a complete soccer team,” Canon-McMillan head coach Larry Fingers said. “Peters plays the same way they play every year. I don’t want to say we were prepared, but we knew. It worked out. Peters is a good team and so is everyone else in our section.”
The Big Macs, meanwhile, took advantage, using their quickness and experienced strikers to create scoring chances. They have outscored five section opponents 15-3.
“It feels really great,” Sodini said of defeating Peters Township. “Now that we beat them, we know we can beat them on multiple occasions, so we’re going to go after it. We’re in our own bubble. We don’t let anyone tell us whether we’re good or bad. We just play within ourselves and hope for the best.”