Every scoring chance becomes important, every save becomes a lifeline and every goal is viewed as a ticket to the next round.
The next round in the case of Westfield and Chautauqua Lake would be the finals of the Class C Section 6 playoffs.
Each team had countless opportunities to score, but only one ball found the net-a shot from Bryan Fish with 24 minutes remaining in the first half as the Thunderbirds went on to earn a hard-fought 1-0 win against their nearby rival, the Westfield Wolverines.
‘’With hail coming down on your face you can’t see the ball as well,’’ Chautauqua Lake goalie Jordan Reynolds said after the game.
Reynolds could see the ball just fine on the stat sheet, making 12 saves for the T-Birds and earning a shutout win.
In the first half, Chautauqua Lake was kicking with the wind, giving it the early advantage. Westfield coach Matt Eggleston knew kicking into the wind was going to be a problem.
Fish was either listening, or he was already one step ahead of the Wolverines.
Minutes later, Fish sliced a sharp grounder past the defense and just in front of goalie Tyler North. It appeared the ball was going to miss just wide right, but at the last minute it hooked into the corner of the net for a goal.
Even Fish looked surprised, but celebrated with his teammates once the goal counted.
Little did anyone know at that point in the game and with two high scoring offenses like Westfield and Chautauqua Lake, that it would be the only goal.
‘’We had so many opportunities to score,’’ Thunderbirds coach Chris Pendl said. ‘’We knew what they wanted to do on offense. We knew their game plan from the start, and we were comfortable on this field.’’
Playing in the new division this year, it was Westfield’s first-ever game on the soccer field at CLCS.
Pendl enjoyed the home-field advantage, and playing Westfield twice during the regular season helped understand their game plan on offense.
Westfield likes to feed speedy forward Robson Knappenberger as much as possible.
Knappenberger was able to streak down the field many times throughout the game, but each time a Chautauqua Lake defender or Reynolds was there to make a key stop.
‘’Most teams like to mark up on Robson. I refuse to, that’s not our game. We play our game and execute on defense. Today we locked them down,’’ Pendl said.
With nine minutes left in the second half, Knappenberger had his best scoring opportunity of the match. He was breaking towards the net, ready to get a clean shot on goal when out of nowhere came Nolan Fardink to slide in and knock the ball harmlessly away.
Fardink not only saved a goal, but he saved a tie game.
Tyler Rhodes was a force on the defensive end, clearing the ball down field to disrupt offensive possessions for Westfield. Along with Fish, Nick Akin and Garrett Gibson played a strong offensive game as did Dan Auflick, who led the team in the shots on goal department.
Westfield’s Nate Kitchen heads a ball away from Chautauqua Lake’s Dan Auflick during the first half of the Class C semifinal playoff game.