By PAUL HINES
Marion’s soccer team recorded a pair of comfortable wins over Mt. Vernon during the regional season.
Saturday’s regional final was anything but comfortable.
Mt. Vernon pushed Marion to the final 90 seconds before the Wildcats got a game-winning goal. Marion won the match 4-3.
“It’s nice to be in situations like this,” Mt. Vernon coach Jeff Harrison said. “It’s postseason. Somebody moves on. Somebody does not.
“Those guys over there (Marion) figured it would be a little bit of a warmup for sectional play. I’m sure they looked ahead. I’m sure they can tell you where the next location is.”
Mt. Vernon erased an early Marion lead. Down 2-0 with 10 minutes left in the first half, Mt. Vernon’s Zach Swinnen dribbled the ball near the Marion goal. He knocked a cross into the penalty area where Braydon Riley smashed a shot into the goal. Two minutes later Tyler Ellis launched a throw-in into the box where Mac Jones headed the ball in to tie the game.
“This was the most resiliency I’ve seen all year long, if not the past couple years,” Harrison said.
Marion reclaimed the lead at 3-2 four minutes into the second half off a corner kick that Jacob Sanders headed past Mt. Vernon goalie J.J. Weigel. The Rams goalie finished with three saves.
With 30 minutes left in the game, Josh Cortez found a wide-open Riley at the top of the box again on a cross. Riley knocked a shot that grazed past the post and into the goal. The shot knotted the game again. This time at three goals.
“He’s just smart,” Harrison said. “Him and Swinnen are just threatening as our forwards just because of their intuition of the game. They can read plays before they happen.”
The Rams best chance to take the lead came a few minutes after their final goal. Tyler Ellis soared up and tried to head the ball in off a Swinnen free kick, but his attempt went high.
Marion dominated the flow of the game in the final 10 minutes, and eventually scored the winning goal. Marion’s Jake Hardin corralled a bouncing ball in the Mt. Vernon penalty area off a corner kick and beat Weigel with a shot.
“I think this game’s going to help us down the road,” Marion coach Tony Orso said. “I think we were a little lackadaisical.”
For most of the game, Mt. Vernon was able to disrupt Marion’s attempt to possess and control the game’s flow. The Wildcats outscored the Rams 7-0 in two regular season games using a ball-possession strategy.
“They definitely disrupted our passing game in the first half and parts of the second half,” Orso said. “We started getting it back there probably the last 15 minutes of the second half.”
Mt. Vernon finished the season 8-11.