HAMBURG - Mark Sleggs walked slowly across the artificial turf at Howe Field on the campus of Hamburg Central School early Thursday evening.
The rain was falling and Southwestern's remarkable soccer season had just ended with a 2-0 loss to No. 1 Akron in the Section 6 Class B-2 championship game, but Sleggs, the Trojans' coach, was hardly crestfallen.
"I like the fact we played pretty tough,'' he said. "We played with a lot of guts.''
Southwestern’s Riley Rybicki takes the ball away from Akron’s Chris Mayrose during Thursday’s Section 6 Class B-2 boys soccer championship game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Above, Southwestern’s Tanner Hoose, right, takes away the ball before Akron’s Randy Mayer can boot it in Thursday’s Section 6 Class B-2 boys soccer championship game. Below is Southwestern coach Mark Sleggs with his players. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
But the Tigers played with senior Chris Mayrose, who turned out to be the best player on the field. The forward accounted for both goals - one in each half - to bump his season total to 23 and send Akron (15-4-0) into the crossover game on Saturday against the B-1 champion.
"Everything goes through him,'' Sleggs said. " ... He can play, he can play.''
Mayrose's first goal came off a free kick at 22:27 of the first half and was the only score before intermission, thanks to strong defensive effort and the play in the net by Southwestern senior Eric Priester. But the Trojans (16-1-2), the No. 2 seed, were unable to generate much offense, in part, because they were playing against a very strong wind.
Southwestern's best chance, by senior Riley Rybicki, was headed away by an Akron player in the 28th minute. All told, the Trojans managed just one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes and were unable to consistently get the ball to the outside, which prevented crossing passes.
"To hold them to only one goal with them having the wind was pretty good,'' Sleggs said. "We just couldn't get enough offense. There is a reason why three of the teams in the (Niagara-Orleans League) are still in the playoffs.''
In the second half, Southwestern, with the wind at its back, was able to generate a few more scoring opportunities, but Akron keeper, senior Austin Medole, recorded the Tigers' eighth shutout of the season.
"Tanner (Hoose) had a couple of shots off free kicks that were from way out,'' Sleggs said. "We decided before the game we were going to let him take those and see if we could generate some offense that way.''
The score remained 1-0 until Mayrose, assisted by senior Brad Seguin, tallied his second goal after dribbling along the end line and putting the ball past Priester. With just over four minutes remaining, the deficit was too much for Southwestern to overcome.The loss, the Trojans first of the season, ended quite a campaign, which included a 16-game winning streak - 13 via shutout.
"It was pretty darn good,'' Sleggs said, "pretty darn good.''
And when the game ended, he instructed his players to greet their fans in the bleachers, some of whom traveled to Hamburg via a school-sponsored spectator bus.
"You don't do stuff like this alone,'' Sleggs said. "There are a lot of people who had a hand in this. That means the guys have to let people know they appreciate it.
"The kids touched a lot of lives. I think they touched each other's lives. I think they touched families' lives and friends' lives and that is the thing that's most important to me."