CONYERS - Salem's win over St. Pius on Wednesday in the first round of the state tournament is arguably one of the biggest wins in Salem soccer history.
But was it an upset?
Not if you ask Salem boys coach Sean DeWeese.
According to DeWeese, the Seminoles showed St. Pius what they were made of right from the start.
"The first 10 minutes of the game were really telling as to how the game was going to turn out. We really controlled the game from the beginning," he said. "I think St. Pius came out a little flat. I don't know if they underestimated us or they were just having an off-night or if they tend to come out flat in the first half."
Whatever the reason, St. Pius knew right away they were in for a dogfight.
"We started to get things going early, then it was kind of back and forth during the middle part of the first half. Then, right at the end of the first half, that's when Daniel (Aguilar) broke away off that deep ball from Javion (Green) and put it in the goal."
Salem took its 1-0 lead into halftime and kept the pressure on St. Pius in the second half.
"The second half, we had a couple of good opportunities (to score)," DeWeese said. "We put the ball in front of the goal, we just didn't finish. We had three or four good scoring opportunities. The last 20 minutes of the second half, St. Pius really started to step it up. I think they realized that they could actually lose. They started to play a lot harder and we were tired and started giving up space. They had a lot of corner kicks and we ended up playing defensive soccer the second half. Eventually, they scored on one of those corner kicks."
St. Pius scored with seven minutes left and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. After two scoreless overtime periods, the game was decided in penalty kicks.
"St. Pius shot first and went up 1-0 in PKs. I started with Blake Whitson because he's real reliable, and he put his away like he usually does and tied it at 1," he said. "Trent (Carpenter) made a great save on St. Pius' next shot, then Colin Easterbrook stepped us and put his away. After their third kicker scored, I put Garrett Wallace up there and he put his away nicely. After their fourth kicker scored, Nate Pulliam stepped up there. He had come to me earlier and told me he was ready and he wanted to take a PK, and with that kind of confidence, I had to put him in there. He finished his nicely, and Koy (Manget) was ready to go after that, but he didn't have to because Trent made another nice save to clinch the win for us."
The win, although only a stepping stone on the ultimate path to a state championship, was certainly a big win for Salem soccer.
"They (St. Pius) have been ranked No. 1 in AAAA for a large part of the season, and the fact that we can hang with and beat a team like that, gives us a lot of confidence," DeWeese said. "I think that we're a team now that people are going to have to stand up and notice."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If You Go
Who: Salem at Alexander
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday