Despite a header goal from Jackie Huang in the 79th minute, the Solebury Spartans couldn’t overcome Kabanu Witherspoon’s hat trick on Tuesday. Solebury (0-1) fell to Girard College 3-2 in its home opener.
A traffic snafu forced the Cavaliers to play one or two men down in the game’s first 10 minutes. Solebury took advantage, with Charlie Franklin heading in a lengthy Daniel Cosner free kick with four minutes elapsed.
“Last year, we worked on it a lot,” Cosner described. “Charlie is 6-foot-4, so I put it up in the air and hopefully he can tip it in. That’s what happens when you put in effort. He ran to the line and got to the ball.”
Solebury freshman defender Jaden Garcia, who opened eyes during the game, made a great sliding save that forced a corner kick and kept a zero on the scoreboard clean midway through the first half. Witherspoon knotted it at one with 8:00 remaining.
Two minutes before intermission, captain Cosner busted off a beautiful run, going nearly the length of the field before firing a shot off the crossbar.
“It’s keeping my head up, seeing where the ball is and where to go,” Cosner said. “When you see space to the side, with the defender coming up, I just poked it past him and jumped over it.”
Witherspoon scored in the 49th minute and got his hat trick to put the Cavaliers up 3-1 in the 71st minute. Huang’s late header trimmed the margin to 3-2.
Girard (2-0) had five corner kicks to Solebury’s four. Solebury keeper Marcel Sessegolo had seven saves in his debut.
Solebury starts just one senior – defender Alex Doogah. “It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun,” Doogah said. “There are some new kids here who are not used to this level of soccer. Hopefully we’ll get better as the year goes by. I know this team can be better.”
“It’s fun. There are some tough times like when you’re losing, but they all have the energy to do what has to be done to win. I love the energy and we can build a good core,” Cosner added.
The Spartans will get experience quickly. Their Penn Jersey contest at Community Academy of Philadelphia this Thursday marks the first of three straight away games. Solebury crosses the river to play South Hunterdon on Saturday and then travels downriver to Morrisville next Tuesday before hosting conference foe Cristo Rey on Sept. 26.
“We’ve had a lot of hard work and practice,” said coach Eric Soroka. “We have a short preseason, but its an intense preseason. We have to balance fun with hard work. We’ve put in the hard work on the small field, which we hopes translates on the big field.”
The 2018 Spartans went 8-5, advancing to the Penn Jersey championship before falling to New Foundations 3-0. Solebury thumped Girard 6-1 in the 2018 conference semifinal.
“My philosophy is to keep the ball,” Soroka said. “If we have it, it lessens their opportunity to score. It’s more possession based.” Solebury’s speed is with its wings.
The Spartans have to deal with the graduation of Lucas Leguizamo, the winner of Solebury’s Most Valuable Senior Athlete award last May. But they return Doogah, the Most Improved Player of the 2018 side.
“Last year, I practiced with Lucas in the offseason and weekends,” Doogah recalled. “This year, I’m playing more outside of the dorm on my own, trying to get back into top gear.” It’s a good analogy for a young, but energetic Spartan side as they start their 2019 campaign.