The Nease Panthers remained undefeated thanks to a 2-2 tie against Creekside in comeback fashion during the Second Annual Holiday Cup Dec. 20.
“I believe this team’s got a lot of heart, and we don’t like to quit easily,” Nease senior Brogan Donnelly said. “I really wish we could have gotten the win, but we’ll take the tie.”
It was the third tie of the season for the Panthers (5-0-3) and not the first time they’ve used a second half comeback to tie or win a game.
After Creekside (9-3) scored two first half goals, the Panthers found themselves trailing and looking for answers during the half.
They wound up finding them in the form on both sides of the ball, as the offense spent a lot of time in possession during the second half and the result was crisp passing and plenty of scoring opportunities.
Donnelly scored both of the Panthers’ goals, the first coming after he had a penalty kick blocked but was in perfect position to knock in the rebound to cut the deficit to one goal with seven minutes into the second half.
“My one and only mentality at the half was that I knew I had to score,” Donnelly said.
The penalty kick was setup after Aiden Kennedy was pushed in the back by the Creekside goaltender in the penalty box.
The game-tying goal was of Donnelly being on the receiving end of a beautiful pass and then slicing through a pair of Knights’ defenders before burying a shot with a powerful swing of his right foot.
“We’ve been close so many times to finishing on our chances, and he (Donnelly works really hard at finding those spaces,” Nease head coach Fred Hallett said. “We switched him up to forward there for a little bit (in the second half) just to give us a little extra punch, and he definitely took advantage of it.”
Evan Miriello and the Panthers’ defense also adjusted in the second half and did not allow a goal after surrendering two in the first.
Miriello made key stops, including a double save early in the second half and one as the Knights made a push in the final minute to preserve the tie.
The game was part of a doubleheader of contest that made up the Second Annual Holiday Cup, where fans could donate money or items that will go toward local nonprofits Soaring High and the Betty Griffin Center. Bartram Trail and Mandarin played each other in the first game of the night.
Hallett has seen the event take steps forward in its first two years, after having Nease and Creekside as the only two teams involved last year. He is excited to see the path it takes in the years to come.
“I think it was really cool, because all of us coaches are friends and we joke with each other all the time and our players know each other really well, so it was fun to get the chance to play them,” Hallett said. “It’s so great when everyone gets invested to make something like this happen.”
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