McCreery, Poland dominate Niles
By Greg Gulas
Four goals by Reed McCreery and two more by Matthew Slepski helped the fifth-seeded Poland Bulldogs to a 6-1 win over 12th-seeded Niles in a Division II sectional semifinal Tuesday night at Dave Pavlansky Field.
Poland will travel to Hubbard on Saturday to take on the fourth-seeded Eagles in a sectional final at 3 p.m.
For McCreery, it was the second four-goal game of his scholastic career and the second time in two seasons that he has accomplished that feat.
He has 18 goals this season.
“We knew that we needed to possess the ball better than we have if we expected advance in the tournament,” McCreery said. “We had good touches today and I really feel as if we are peaking at just the right time. Our goalie, Rhys Jones, has been amazing all season long. He’s been especially great when he punts the ball well over 60 yards downfield and we get it near the opponents’ 35-yard line.”
McCreery’s first goal at 25:10 of the opening half gave the Bulldogs (12-4-1) the early goal advantage and when Slepski added the first of his two tallies 36 seconds later, Poland opened a 2-0 lead.
“Reed got fouled in the box, I took the penalty kick and was able to bury it,” Slepski said.
Jake Bacon then assisted McCreery on his second goal at 15:57 of the opening session as the Bulldogs opened a 3-0 cushion at intermission.
“Everybody on this team wants success and we’re definitely playing better right now than we were at the start of the season,” Bulldogs head coach Brian Garcar said. “Niles plays hard and has a lot of nice players. We just wanted to concentrate on executing, finishing our plays and creating opportunities.
According to Garcar, the team sets goals before each game in order to ensure a complete 80 minute effort.
“The goals that we set before each game help to keep everyone focused,” Garcar said. “The key is to focus on every choice because they might not get another opportunity the remainder of the game. I like where we are at right now, but we can still improve. This is a hard-working group that has played well together all season.”
McCreery’s third goal at 32:36 of the second half extended the Bulldogs lead to 4-0 and when Slepski notched his second goal of the contest at 23:04, Poland opened a 5-0 lead over the Red Dragons (0-15-2).
“Bailey Swogger gave me a perfect pass from his head, flicking the ball right to me so that I would be in position to score,” Slepski said.
McCreery’s final goal at 21:24 turned out to be the Bulldogs’ final tally as well, making it a 6-0 contest before Tristan DelVecchio’s goal with 1:24 remaining helped Niles avoid the shutout.
With the win, Poland swept all three games this season with their All-American Conference counterparts. The Bulldogs beat the Red Dragons 3-0 at home on Sept. 7 and 8-0 at Niles on Sept. 28. In three games Poland outscored Niles 17-1.
The Bulldogs had 17 shots on goal as they recorded their fourth straight victory and sixth in the last seven outings.
Niles had eight shots on goal.