NANTICOKE – When Nanticoke gave up early goals in 2011, the team would likely be finished for the rest of the match.
What a difference a year makes.
The Trojans gave up an early score in each half against Berwick on Friday afternoon, but rebounded from both goals to pull out a dramatic 5-4 victory in a Wyoming Valley Conference match between the top two teams in Division III. The teams have split the season series with the Bulldogs winning 1-0 last month.
"We played them really well in the beginning of the year and I think we surprised them and these kids wanted another shot at them," Nanticoke coach Mark Matusek said. "The kids really made us proud today."
Nanticoke, which struggled in 2011 finishing winless in 16 matches, improved to 7-4 this season and pulled within one game in the standings behind the Bulldogs, who fell to 8-3-1. In league matches, Berwick faces Division II Meyers and fellow Division III foes MMI and Hanover Area. Winning all three of those secures the Bulldogs a division title.
Nanticoke must hope Berwick drops one of those matches and has to win its final four matches or net three wins and a tie against GAR, MMI, Meyers and Pittston Area to force a tie.
On Friday, Berwick – which played its third game of the week – opened a quick 1-0 lead as Anthony Ramos found the back of the net off a pass from Richard Umana just 1:57 into the match.
"I don't think they were tired," Berwick coach Janet Henger said. "I think they were ready for them. They were sore because they played overtime on Wednesday night and that's big because it was a night game and grades come first."
But Nanticoke didn't give up after that and outplayed the Bulldogs for most of the first half finally registering a tally when Wiston Godoy evened the match at 1-1 knocking in a backwards header with 21:58 left off an assist from Ed Lukowski. Godoy was just getting started.
After Berwick went ahead 2-1 with 14:57 left on an Umana unassisted tally, Godoy gave a pass to Mike Mihneski, who tied the score at 2-2 with 2:46 left in the first.
That score might have been good enough to go into halftime with a tie for some squads, but the Trojans weren't done as Godoy dished out another assist just before the half to Rees Roberts to put Nanticoke ahead 3-2.
"They got us early but our guys responded well," Matusek noted. "And we kept the pressure on them. We've been behind before and came back and they seem to respond well in those situations."
Berwick tied the match back up at the beginning of the second half, again less than two minutes in as Umana scored 1:24 into the second for a 3-3 score. The Bulldogs regained the lead with 11:45 remaining as Umana passed to Ramos for a 4-3 lead. That seemed to secure the game for Berwick.
"He's really quick and secures the ball really good," Matusek said about Umana, who leads the entire WVC with 25 goals. "He took good shots and was a problem the whole game."
But again, Nanticoke wasn't giving up. Matusek moved Lukowski up front and Mihneski inside to generate some offense and it paid off.
A foul called inside the box gave Godoy a penalty kick with 9:04 left. And Godoy nailed it to even the score at 4-4. Less than three minutes later, Lukowski, a freshman, secured the victory hitting a blast from about 30 yards away that was just out of the reach of Berwick keeper Erickson Vasquez, who leaped and had a few fingers on it, but it was placed perfectly by Lukowski.
Nanticoke 5, Berwick 4
First half: 1. BER, Anthony Ramos (Richard Umana) 38:03; 2. NAN, Wiston Godoy (Ed Lukowski) 21:58; 3. BER, Umana 14:57; 4. NAN, Mike Mihneski (Godoy) 2:46; 5. NAN, Rees Roberts (Godoy) :40
Second half: 1. BER, Umana (Josh Moran) 38:36; 2. BER, Ramos (Umana) 11:45; 3. NAN, Godoy (penalty kick) 9:06; 4. NAN, Lukowski 6:18
Shots: BER 14, NAN 21; Saves: BER 10 (Erickson Vasquez), NAN 5 (Carmelo Pioquinto); Corners: BER 2, NAN 5.
Cal Lisman and Mike Kendra had one goal and one assist each in the Meyers shutout win.
First half: 1. MEY, Cal Lisman (Mike Kendra), 12:23;
Second half: 2. MEY, Fernando Ramirez (Lisman), 61:30; 3. MEY, Kendra (Tom Lovecchio), 62:49
Shots: PIT 17, MEY 14; Saves: PIT 11 (Taylor Roberts, John Kielbasa), MEY 17 (Adam Casey); Corners: PIT 3, MEY 6.
Brian Ly had three goals in the Tunkhannock victory.
Evan Rider recorded the only score for Wyoming Area.
First half: 1. TUNK, Brian Ly (Dean Mirabelli), 31:45; 2. TUNK, Ly, 22:31; 3. WA, Evan Rider (Nick Leon), 20:00; 4. TUNK, Ly (Colton Brown), :27;
Second half: 5. TUNK, Aidan Cronin (Matt Dymond), 34:07; TUNK, Brown (Jake Cole), 25:00
Shots: TUNK 24, WA 11; Saves: TUNK 10 (Zac Daniels), WA 17 (Aaron Carter, Zach Lagrue); Corners: TUNK 10, WA 2.