Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon’s Mitchell Gergeni had the game of his life Thursday against Charleston.
The senior midfielder, left open on the right wing for the first half, had free reign to center the ball at will. And at will, he did.
Gergeni’s ability to stay wide on the right wing enabled the Green Wave to score two first-half goals, and goalkeeper Jason Skocy played well in goal to lead Mattoon past Charleston 4-0 on senior night Thursday.
A Gergeni center pass set up a scramble in front of the Charleston goal requiring the Trojan defense to clear the ball out of bounds.
Mattoon (11-10-1, 7-8) took the thrown in from the left side which went over the scrum, landing right in front of senior forward Lincoln Scott who buried the ball in the bottom of the net for a 1-0 Green Wave lead just 90 seconds into the match.
Just two minutes later, Gergeni again raced up the right wing centering the ball squarely into the box but senior midfielder Andy Karpus couldn’t get a touch on it.
Mattoon continued pressuring the Charleston (8-13-1, 5-10) defense with Karpus again getting another look for a goal trying to redirect a header of his own from an errant header from junior midfielder Jace Gardner only to see it sail over the goal.
Korpus would get another chance set up by Gergeni. With the first half winding down, Gergeni, taking a 20-yard outlet pass, raced up the right wing and centered the ball to Korpus, who pocketed the ball past Charleston goaltender Alex Dow for a 2-0 halftime lead.
“I just listened to coach,” Gergeni said. “He knows what’s best. He told me to stay wide. That’s what I did, and I waited for the ball. That’s all I had to do.”
Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere said he took advantage of the opportunities.
“He did great staying out wide for us,” he said. “He made the most of his moment tonight. The biggest problem was that we didn’t get him the ball enough. If we had put the ball out there more, he would have had more chances.”
“We scrimmaged in practice last night and played the ball out there. He served it in and finished just like the goal tonight. He played well.”
Ghere said that Korpus has been there all year but hasn’t been able to convert those passes.
“He’s been right on the doorstep all year,” he said. “He hasn’t converted a few of those, but there was no doubt on that one. It’s good when your forwards step up and score goals.”
The Green Wave normally push up the left side with junior midfielder Jace Gardner, but the Green Wave took what Charleston gave them.
“We usually jam it up the left side and they were shifting and the right side was wide open,” Korpus said.
Mattoon didn’t let up. Gardner scored twice in the second half, solidifying the Green Wave’s dominance. Green Wave senior midfielder Ty Eastin rocketed a corner kick into the box past the outstretched hands of Dow, which found its way to Gardner, who put in the net for a 3-0 lead in the 25th minute.
Five minutes later, Eastin again found Gardner on a set piece. This time as he was falling down. The junior midfielder redirected the ball off his chest before hitting the ground himself giving the Green Wave a 4-0 lead in the 30th minute.
“He’s (Eastin) been solid all year. Ty has gotten better each game he’s played. Its the twin towers back there,” referring to Eastin and senior midfielder Quincy Wright. “They win balls out of the air, and chase people down. We were physical. They were a force back there. I thought Jason did a great job in goal tonight. He didn’t face a lot of shots, but he directed traffic and played a few balls back to his feet for him to clear away. I thought he did a good job leading the club for us tonight.”
Eastin said he and Wright know each other’s tendencies after playing together for close to a decade.
“We’ve been playing together for eight or nine years now,” he said. “We have really great chemistry. I know when he drops back to go after the ball, and then when he goes after the ball I need drop back. That really helps. Size isn’t our weakness. We can challenge people and we’re quick in the back. If anyone is running, most of the time we can cut them off.”
“It’s nice when players step up on senior night,” Ghere said. “It’s a night they’re going to remember forever. A big crowd and little kids were here to watch us tonight. Good game.”
Ghere said he thought the Green Wave played well defensively.
“We didn’t give them many chances in the box,” he said. “They had a few set pieces but that was it. I thought all four of our backs did really well. Quentin(Wright) and Ty(Eastin) just held down the fort in the back. Won ball after ball and chased down guys a few times. I think we’ve gotten good on defense over the last four weeks. We’re playing well at the right time.”
Scott’s goal was the first of his varsity career.
Ghere praised senior midfielder Nathan Morgan who nearly scored, too.
“He had a shot and beat their goalie but they had a defender on the line,” he said. “We could have had another senior score on that one.”
Charleston coach Zach Stranz said he was disappointed by how his squad reacted to the Green Wave’s intensity.
“We expected it,” he said. “ I’m just disappointed we weren’t able to get any offense going today. We only had three shots with one on target. You’re not going to win any games doing that. I felt like my defense stepped up today.”
Stranz was happy with their communication on defense even if the score didn’t reflect it.
“They had a couple good goals,” he said. “We just couldn’t tie the whole thing together. I knew after the first game we played against them on this. I knew they were going to put a well rounded game together. We need to work on that.”
“We can’t let them move us off the ball. There were too many times we were sitting on our heels.”
Few on the Mattoon bench were sitting.
“I thought we had intensity the whole game,” Ghere said. “We had some lapses in the middle or other parts. Kids were off the bench the entire time. We started the nine seniors and didn’t miss a beat. I thought our seniors played really well tonight.”
“Big night for the seniors,” he said. “They played well and I’m proud of them. A win on senior night against Charleston doesn’t get much better than that.”
38:36 Lincoln Scott 1 (Ty Eastin 1)
2:23 Andy Korpus (Mitchel Gergeni 1)
15:21 Jace Gardner 1(Eastin 2)
10:38 Gardner 2(Eastin 3)