Unfortunately, it was more letdown than showdown. While Panhellenic Zeus and Croatia Adria have staged some epic battles on the soccer pitch this summer, Tuesday night's encounter, with first place in the Men's Division of the SRCSL (Sudbury Regional Competitive Soccer League) was not one of them.
Taking full advantage of a depleted Croatia roster, Panhellenic received a two-goal effort from Corey Boyce, with Brian Hennessy converting on a penalty kick as Zeus blanked Adria 3-0, more or less locking up first place in regular season play.
With stalwarts Tony Tagliafierro, Marco Armiento and Jadran Beljo unable to make the contest, Croatia was limited to just eleven bodies, a total that dropped by one at the half after keeper Dale Pidutti was nailed with a ball in the eye.
By this point, the match had virtually already been decided when Boyce opened the scoring, pouncing on a deflected ball that escaped the grasp of Pidutti and easily finding his target in the open net. Just before half time, Hennessy is taken down from behind inside the box and Zeus opt to allow the young striker, preparing to tryout with the Carleton Ravens later this month, to finish what he had started.
Panhellenic enjoys a couple of great chances to increase the lead about 15 minutes into half number two, but goaltender Martin Martic, pressed into service with the injury to Pidutti, is equal to the task. Although most of the play was controlled by Zeus over the final twenty minutes or so, Croatia did enjoy one opportunity to hit the scoreboard as Antonio Radford-Paz slips a pretty pass through to speedy Derek Huffels, who clears the crossbar by a fair margin.
Although Croatia Adria executed the defensive trap countless times effectively, they were victimized by this aggressive approach on occasion, leading to a final tally courtesy of Boyce, who already looks in mid-season form as he prepares to try and lead the Cambrian men to the playoffs for a second straight season.
Although pleased with the eventual outcome, many of the Panhellenic side were disapointed that it wasn't the full Adria complement that took to Queen's Athletic Field for the important encounter.
"We were really looking forward to the game - obviously, it was for first place in the league," noted Panhellenic veteran Trevor Beange. "Unfortunately, they had a short bench, which was a little unexpected."
Beange, who returns to Laurentian later this week as the Voyageurs' soccer teams begin training camp, knows that the game-plan remains the same, even if their opponent on this occasion were somewhat undermanned.
"They have a lot of good strikers who can put the ball in the net. Our defense always has to be sharp and get the ball out as soon as they can, or else they will capitalize when they get their chances."
With a solid handful of players taking to the field last night moving on to resume their post-secondary soccer careers, the benefit of playing at a decent level throughout the summer is clear. For the likes of Trevor Beange and others, these games do provide an opportunity to develop key aspects of their game.
"Here, there is a lot of time on the ball - your vision grows, I find, when you play here." Although SRCSL men's play will continue right through to mid-September, numbers are likely to become an increasing issue by virtue of the fact that so many of the players return to their post-secondary institutions by the time the end of August rolls around.