There is certainly an easier way to open the season, but Dave Marr likes to foreshadow the drama to come.
Yorktown hit the artificial turf running Saturday and was forced to scramble in the second half, stringing together four unanswered goals to post an exciting 8-6 win over John Jay at Charlie Murphy Field in the only regular-season meeting between the rivals.
“It’s a good challenge,” said Marr, who’s in his 10th season as ’Huskers coach. “We’re going to play in big games all season long so we might as well get started.”
Surprisingly, this game was closer than either meeting between the schools a year ago. The Indians (1-1) are not comparable to Yorktown in terms of varsity experience, but they were not lacking in confidence, and had a 6-4 lead three minutes into the second half.
Tommy Beck and Daniel Lobosco did the honors, throwing in goals after Conor Gately made it a 4-4 game seconds after the intermission came to a close.
“It’s John Jay,” Cornhuskers midfielder Brian Quigley said. “They come out hard every year.”
And the Indians were playing a zone defense that forced Yorktown to stand up and rip from a safe distance most of the game. It’s not a strategy the ’Huskers favor.
“They didn’t allow us to use our advantage — our speed and our chemistry,” Yorktown attackman Gately said. “They forced us to shoot from areas we normally don’t shoot from, and it took us a while to work it out.”
The Cornhuskers outshot John Jay 16-8 in the first half, but were trailing by a goal at the break.
Indians goalie Tom Branca had a hand in that, as well. He made 16 saves and took several goals away when Yorktown did work the ball inside.
“Branca’s a great player,” ’Huskers attackman Frankie Fusco said. “He’s always been a great player. When he’s on his game you’ve got to aim small and miss small. You don’t want to give him any help because when Tom gets hot the game is hard.”
A little more precision by Yorktown led to more possessions.
Brian Prestreau got the run started, then Gately worked his way inside, took a nasty stick check and bounced a shot into the cage, making it 6-6. A little patience with the ball made all the difference for the Cornhuskers, who seemed to be content bombing away in the first half.
“We started off pretty sloppy, and in the second half, we started off behind and knew we had to pick it up as quickly as possible,” Quigley said. “We had to get some possessions, move the ball around more and get better shots.”
Fusco came up with the tiebreaker two minutes into the fourth.
He took a pass from Gately just outside the crease and immediately lost the ball. It was knocked straight down by a long pole defender, but Fusco quickly scooped it up and got Branca leaning with a nice ball fake.
“Conor’s a great feeder who alway knows where people are going to be,” Fusco said. “He put a backdoor pass right on my stick. They knocked it down with a great check. I kept my head low, picked up the ball and finished in tight.”
Fusco and Gately each came up with three goals. Shawn Smith and Tom Beck had two apiece for John Jay.
Clearing the ball was the biggest issue for the Indians, who struggled with turnovers down the stretch. The dagger came when Quigley went behind the net and set up Joey Saliano with 3:22 left to play.
“I think a lot of it on clears for us is being patient,” John Jay coach Tim Schurr said. “Instead of clearing the ball in five seconds, we can clear it in 15 or 20 seconds, and I don’t think we realize that yet. Some of these guys haven’t played a whole lot. It’s so early in the season, we’re still working out some kinks.”