The Battle of the Bubble was a blast for the McIntosh Chiefs as their offense exploded in a doubleheader sweep of the Starr’s Mill Panthers Thursday night.
The Lady Chiefs used a short but powerful burst of scoring to notch a 3-0 victory.
“I’m really proud of our girls and how they worked together,” said Coach Marcia Clark. “It was a great win for us. We really wanted to come out hard and strong and execute our game plan.”
The Chiefs were on the attack from the outset. A well-executed slide tackle by Sky Dedrick turned away an early opportunity, but they say when it rains, it pours, and a flood was coming from the offense. In the fourteenth minute, Taylor Malasek beat the keeper to a through ball and chipped it in for the opening strike. Less than two minutes later, Chandler Witucki’s crossing pass found Malasek, who punched it in for goal number two. Less than a minuter after that, Malasek beat the keeper again and placed the ball into the upper left corner of the goal for a 3-0 lead and a hat trick in less than four minutes of action.
The scoring outburst was uncharacteristic of a game where both teams played excellent defense. Good scoring scoring opportunities would be few and far between for the remainder of the match.
Early in the second half, Kimmy Edgeworth placed a pass over the top of the defense to Hannah Ellison, but keeper Spencer Dawson made a great diving save to turn her away. Dawson finished the night with 10 saves. Malasek got a shot for her fourth goal, but missed just barely.
Starr’s Mill got their best look midway through the second half when Quin Nowicki put a shot on goal, but Emily Lopez was ready to make the save.
“Our defense was solid. It has been very solid all year long,” said Clark. “Our goalkeeper (Lopez) was able to keep us out of trouble.”
The Lady Chiefs are 5-5-2 and ranked number four in Class 5A. Starr’s Mill is 6-6-1 and ranked number five.
“Starr’s Mill was giving us everything we wanted,” said McIntosh Coach Bunky Colvin. “They had our backs to the wall. They were playing great.”
The Panthers would draw first blood, Patrick Bonilla scoring in the fifth minute.
“Starr’s Mill is so dangerous,” said Colvin, singling out Ryan Shanahan and Leo Bueno as great players on an excellent team. “They put a lot of pressure on us in the back and forced us to make adjustments. They took us out of our game for a bit.”
Faced with a deficit, the Chiefs were unfazed.
“I’m really proud of the boys,” said Colvin. “They just stepped up and started playing with heart.”
After a trio of near misses, including a pair from Jacob Donaldson, the Chiefs broke through in the 23rd minute, Donaldson punching in a penalty kick to level the score. The Chiefs took the lead four minutes later when Jeffery Magee perfectly placed a pass in stride for Gus Fidler to head home. Dylan Keyser made it three first-half goals with a laser from outside of the box elevating just above the outstretched arms of the Starr’s Mill keeper.
The always physical rivalry match saw the referees attempt to keep the tensions in check in the second half with a trio of cards. In quick succession, Magee and Keysar each received a yellow card for the Chiefs. Starr’s Mill sought to seize control with a Shanahan goal to claw back within 3-2.
The Panther goal did not dim the Chiefs’ confidence. Not long after, Sammy Shlapak was dealt a red card for a dangerous tackle, and McIntosh pounced on the opportunity.
“Normally when all the momentum is going against you, it’s almost impossible to turn it back, but we had guys come off the bench who gave us huge minutes and got the thing turned back around in our favor,” said Colvin, praising the spark provided by Baba Abaje and Ivan Pino.
Abaje would be the one to cool off the Panthers with a strike in the 30th minute. Addison Dattilo added an insurance goal, muscling through the defense to put a successful shot on goal. Abaje capped off a fruitful night for the offense with his second goal off a Donaldson crossing pass.
McIntosh is now 12-1-0 on the season and ranked number one. Starr’s Mill is 10-3-1 and ranked number five.
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