MONMOUTH — Over the course of the opening 30 minutes, the No. 11 Lisbon boys’ soccer team had Monmouth Academy right where it wanted it.
The Greyhounds were winning nearly every battle to the ball against the sixth-seeded Mustangs and had Monmouth goaltender Kasey Smith diving from left to right on the muddy pitch.
Smith made all the saves, and his teammates came to the rescue in a solid second half in a 2-0 Western Class C preliminary win on Saturday, sending Monmouth (11-4) to the quarterfinals against No. 3 Hall-Dale (13-1) on Tuesday.
Lisbon finished 7-7-1.
“This is a big win for us,” Monmouth striker Avery Pomerleau, who scored the game-winning goal with 21:05 remaining, said. “We started a little bit slow, but in the second half we got it going. We just worked in the second half.”
Lisbon coach Dan Sylvester was pleased with his team’s efforts, with the Greyhounds only losing senior Johnny Yim.
“We will be seasoned, with a good junior group coming back,” Sylvester said. “The kids played hard today, and the game really could have gone the other way.”
Lisbon carries play
There was no feeling out process to start this one. Lisbon forward Austin Fournier launched a shot just 20 seconds in that Smith stopped, and Lisbon keeper Nate Bergeron made a save on a chance by Chandler Harris moments later.
The Greyhounds gained the territorial advantage behind the work of midfielders Austin Bedford, Nick Huston and Nick Larette. Lisbon held a 7-3 shots advantage and a 4-0 edge in corner kicks through 30 minutes, with Fournier, Bradley Boulet and Jonah Sautter creating solid scoring chances.
“I think they outplayed us in the first half, with us playing shorthanded with two starters out,” Monmouth coach Joe Fletcher said. “We didn’t play well against St. Dom’s (a 4-0 loss in the regular-season finale) and hadn’t played since, and we came out a bit flat.”
“The first half was really good, and the kids executed well,” Sylvester said. “It was going to come down to mistakes, and we had to capitalize on them.”
Pomerleau began finding room on the wing, while Hunter Richardson, Harris and Joshua Neal took over in the midfield over the final 10 minutes of the opening frame.
“The last 10 minutes they started to get some opportunities on their transition,” said Sylvester, who watched Bergeron make a sensational save on Richardson with 1:24 left until halftime.
The Mustangs carried their momentum into the second half, sending five shots toward the Lisbon cage.
On the other end, Fournier had Lisbon’s last chance to dent the scoreboard first. A stop and go move sent a Mustang defender slipping to the ground, and his shot to the far post was stopped by the dive of Smith to keep the game scoreless.
The game’s first goal came shortly after. Pomerleau chased down a ball, slipped, rose to his feet and launched a shot to the short side past Bergeron.
“The goal got the momentum going, and I think he looked for the cross and I was able to sneak it in,” Pomerleau said.
“We really didn’t change anything, but we wanted to maintain our shape and stay composed in the second half,” Fletcher said.
Lisbon continued to have trouble getting the ball out of its zone as the field became a muddy mess.
“We didn’t get our passing going out of the back in the second half, and we had that deflection down there that went in,” said Sylvester, who watched his team’s chances slip away when Richards gathered in a long pass from Harris, was stopped by Bergeron but put in his own rebound with 12:17 remaining.
On the strength of a 15-5 shots advantage in the second half, Monmouth finished with a 23-17 edge. Smith turned aside 11 shots, while Bergeron had nine saves.