Dain Malaniak already has scored five goals for the undefeated Bulldogs.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
POLAND -- Dain Malaniak is a stiletto in soccer spikes, a blade-thin player capable of scoring a lethal goal at any time.
With Thursday's game about 72 minutes old, Malaniak slid past a Niles defender and issued a 10-yard goal that gave Poland a 2-0 advantage to end all doubt, leading the Bulldogs' boys soccer team to an eventual 3-0 win.
Malaniak, one of nine senior starters for Poland, is 6-foot-1, 155 pounds -- a scalpel who has scored five times already for the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 Metro Athletic Conference).
Despite taking a 1-0 lead on Chris Juchno's goal off an assist from Stephen Gavolas, Poland played uninspired for much of the first half.
Coach calls on Malaniak
The Bulldogs, who have a 22-match regular season unbeaten streak (18-0-4) over three seasons, needed a boost and coach Chris Labatte called on Malaniak to provide it.
"We made a little tactical adjustment with 1-0," Labatte said. "We threw an extra forward up -- pushed him up to the top to try to get the second goal.
"It paid off after about two minutes. Going with a couple extra guys up there, it was a little more difficult to defend. We knew the second goal would pretty much determine it."
Malaniak, normally a midfielder, described his goal.
"I got the ball out in the corner and I knew I had somebody on my back," Malaniak said of his scoring run. "I tried to turn and I got away from him. He grabbed my shirt because he wasn't too happy about it.
"I saw the goal line was open so I turned it toward the goal and everybody sort of moved out of the way and there was me and the goalie so I took a shot and it happened to go in."
Niles' bid thwarted
Before the score the Niles team was looking for an equalizer but when it became 2-0, the Bulldogs knew the decision was theirs.
Niles (0-4, 0-1) has been outscored 9-0 but has greatly improved under second-year coach Bill Bowden.
"When I took it over I knew it was going to be a couple year deal," Bowden said. "We changed from one style of play to the style of play we want. It's slowly coming."
In a space of about 10 minutes midway through the second half, Poland got off seven consecutive good shots on goal, all just missing their mark.
"From a coaching standpoint," Labatte said. "If you're sitting back watching the game, we probably had six or seven [shots] that you go back and scratch your head and say 'How the heck did we not put that in.'
"I think it's harder to miss than it is to score half the chances that we had."
In that spell, with Poland clinging to a 1-0 lead, Matt Shurilla missed just high, Gavolas pushed a ball barely wide right, and Sam Romeo and Clay Bolton were rejected by the upright.
Also, Niles goalie Joe Harvey knocked away a good shot by Malaniak who also shot barely over the crossbar.
Bolton scored the final Poland goal with about four minutes remaining.