TERRE HAUTE —
There wasn’t much to separate Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South’s boys soccer teams on Wednesday in the annual intra-city matchup.
So as a scoreless stalemate boiled well into the second half between the Patriots and Braves, it seemed if there was going to be a breakthrough at all, it was likely going to come from a set piece.
With just over 18 minutes to go, that’s exactly what happened.
North’s Haulein McInerney was fouled in the box on a Patriots’ free kick resulting in a North penalty kick. Jared Prifogle coolly put it away and it held up for a 1-0 North victory on South’s field.
North retained the intra-city Cup for the second consecutive season.
“A lot of pressure was on us because they were pumped. We had to get more pumped than they were. Every minute counted, every second counted,” McInerney said.
The penalty kick decision that created the goal for North was not without controversy. What wasn’t controversial was the craft North displayed in setting it up.
North was awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box on the right side. McInerney, Prifogle and Grant Reed lined up in kicking position. Both McInerney and Reed passed over the ball, but McInerney snuck in behind South’s defensive wall.
Prifogle took the free kick, but rather than blast it at the goal, he delivered a short pass to McInerney, who had a sliver of space on the right side of the box to shoot or cross in front of the goal mouth.
“We do have that opportunity to run behind the wall and pass or cross into the box. We work on set plays almost every day. It’s those guys there that make the decision [to do it]. It helps to have good captain material,” North coach John Welch said.
McInerney got his shot off, but he was knocked down shortly after. The assistant referee raised his flag to get the referee’s attention and a penalty kick was awarded.
Prifogle, who has never missed a penalty kick in five tries for North, buried the PK on the lower right corner to give the Patriots a lead that would hold up for the full 80 minutes.
“I’ve missed a few [penalty kicks] during travel season, so that makes me a bit nervous thinking back to that, but so far, I have a perfect record [at North] and I’m going to try to keep it,” Prifogle said.
Not surprisingly, both teams had their own take on the fateful call.
“I knew I had to get it off my foot quickly because there were so many guys around me,” McInerney said. “I try not to flop … ever. But I did get hit after I kicked the ball.”
South thought they were hard done by.
“The explanation to me was that he got the shot off and was pulled down. That’s kind of questionable for me. When you’re calling a PK, it needs to be more flagrant of a foul,” South coach Aaron Nicoson said. “The scoring opportunity was done, but then he got wrenched to the ground. I take issue with that. I’m not saying it’s a bad call, but it could’ve gone either way.”
Nicoson also took issue with a possible PK that wasn’t called later in the second half on a Braves’ free kick that went into the penalty box.
Throughout the contest, both teams had trouble breaking the other. Shots were comparatively plentiful — the teams combined for 26 — but there were few good chances for either team.
For South, an issue was the lack of width in attack. Aside from some solid sorties up the sideline from winger Matt Green, South was mostly compact and in the middle, dependent on excellent box-to-box center midfielder Rory Sommerville.
South (2-5-1) also lamented some ill-timed runs by its forwards. The Braves were flagged for offsides eight times in the match, including a disallowed goal by Tony Serrato in the first half.
“It was frustrating. North will play an offsides trap, but they weren’t today. That’s a shame on us type of thing. Timing runs is really important,” Nicoson said.
North (7-4-3) let the match come to them as it gained the run of play by the second half. The Patriots had the opposite issue from South, it was able to create wide chances from both sides, but the crosses had trouble finding the mark.
Both teams were stymied by excellent play by both goalkeepers. North’s Aaron Shema and South’s Keaton Vanwey were not beaten in open play.
In the first half, besides his disallowed goal, an active Serrato had the next-best chances. Six minutes into the match, Shema stymied a strong chance. With four minutes to go, Serrato broke into space on a pass from Grant Hammons, but Shema come off his line and stifled the chance. Shema made another strong save on a shot by Graham Wrin in the second half.
Most of North’s best chances came off free kicks. McInerney in the first half and Prifogle in the second each came close, but McInerney’s sailed just wide right and Prifogle’s was saved.
Since the Cup was created in the mid-2000s, it has tended to stay on one side of Terre Haute or the other in its history. After South had it from 2009-2011, North will keep it for a second straight season.
“I hope I get to enjoy it for another year,” said Prifogle, a junior.
Terre Haute North 0 1 — 1
Terre Haute South 0 0 — 0
North goal — Jared Prifogle (PK, 18:13 2H).
Shots — North 12, South 14.
Corners — North 3, South 6.
Saves — Shema (THN) 10, Vanwey (THS) 9.
Next — TH North (7-4-3) and TH South (2-5-1) both play at Carmel on Saturday.