Panthers 'Finish' Off Vikings to Earn Big Win

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By Alex Frazier

Nick Zegestowsky recalls vividly the glory years at Cheltenham.
He was a part of them. His junior year, the Panthers finished second in District One to Strath Haven, which went on to win states by eight goals.
Since then Cheltenham has fallen on bad times.
But with Zegestowsky’s return to his alma mater as head coach three years ago, the Panthers are heading back up the ladder of success.
Wednesday’s 3-1 at Upper Merion is a good sign of the progress the team has made under Zegestowsky.
“I’m happy with the way we’re progressing,” he said. “I had a 3-5 year plan. When I took over the program, we had two wins. I see a lot more kids coming out. I don’t expect district championships yet, but the boys play hard for me, and that’s all I can ask.”
Statistics for the game are surprisingly close, despite the score.
The difference was that the Panthers finished their chances and Upper Merion didn’t.
“Today we finally finished the ball,” said Zegestowsky.
But he was quick to note that the key to the game came in the midfield, especially with Martin Freeman.
“We won the midfield, we distributed the ball,” said the coach. “We tend to have lapses in different phases of the game. Today our midfield picked up the tempo.”
Cheltenham scored on its third shot of the game in the 11th minute when senior Anderson Gaussaint re-directed an air ball to Michael Schanbacher on the left side of the box. He wailed a line drive into the right side.
Three minutes later Schanbacher had another chance, except Upper Merion keeper Joe Delcollo won the foot race to the 50/50 ball.
The Vikings’ best opportunity came just a minute later when Ben Andrews struck a hard riser from outside the box that was headed to the upper left corner. Cheltenham keeper Nick Croy timely dove to his right, tipping the ball wide of the post.
Although Cheltenham controlled a majority of the action, the Vikings finished with a 7-5 shot advantage – Andrews’ being the only dangerous one.
Cheltenham put the nails in the coffin early in the second half. Gaussaint, a transfer student from Haiti, figured in both scores, including his first varsity league goal.
The first tally came at 10:59 when Gaussaint crossed the ball from the left post to Ryan Cowen, who slammed it into the right side of the net.
“We wanted to win, and we worked hard,” said Gaussaint. “I liked that.”
Just over a minute later, Gaussaint found himself one-on-one with Delcollo and easily beat the Viking keeper to the left side.
“I‘m pretty much happy,” he said. “I’m gonna get more.”
“We came out pretty flat,” said Upper Merion sweeper Heath Kupecky. “Halfway through the second half, we started losing players. We had players injured coming into the game. Their injuries got bad and they couldn’t play anymore. And we don’t have good depth on the bench.”
Kupecky was indeed a bright spot for the Vikings, as Zegestowsky would attest.
“He’s a heckuva player,” said the Panther coach. “I tried to tell my boys that he was their best player and to play away from him.”
Besides policing the backfield, Kupecky was dangerous with his long throw-ins and his laser kicks.
Gaussaint’s goal ended his day, as he sat out the rest of the second half.
“It was an excellent opportunity for our reserves to get into the game,” said Zegestowsky. “They’ve been itching to get into the game, so I was happy to do that.”
Upper Merion averted the shutout, mounting offensive pressure in the final 17 minutes of play.
In the 24th minute, Andrews was robbed of a goal on a nice play by Croy, who tipped the ball wide at the near post. The Vikings couldn’t convert on the corner.
In the next six minutes, David McEwen and Kupecky each fired long direct kicks on goal, but Croy was up to the challenge both times.
Finally with about 20 seconds left to play, Andrews sent a through ball behind the Cheltenham defense. Robert Friskey ran onto it and drilled the ball low and inside the right post.
“I thought we’d perform better,” said Kupecky. “We just didn’t show up for this game. We were definitely there physically; we weren’t there mentally. We have to show up for our next game.”
The Vikings might have notched a few more goals without the steady play of stopper Jeff Henstenburg and sweeper Miles Roman.
“In the second half they did a great job,” said the coach. “Nothing got past them.”
Cheltenham 3, Upper Merion 1
Goals: Michael Schanbacher (Ch), Ryan Cowen (Ch), Anderson Gaussaint (Ch), Robert Friskey (UM)
Shots: Cheltenham 13, Upper Merion 14
Assists: Andrew Gaussaint (Ch) 2, (Ch), Ben Andrews (UM)
Shots: Cheltenham Saves: Nick Croy (Ch) 9, Joe Delcollo (UM) 4
Corners: Cheltenham 2, Upper Merion 3
Fouls: Cheltenham 11, Upper Merion 14