By Andrew Wroblewski
Hills West’s makeshift defense looked more like a stone wall Thursday night, standing strong behind an early two-goal cushion to help secure the program’s third Suffolk boys soccer championship.
The Colts, who defeated the Smithtown West Bulls, 2-0, for the Class AA championship, was anchored by a defense led by Luke Bloom and Nicholas Duchatellier, both of whom were in somewhat new territory and helped fight off countless Smithtown West attacks.
Bloom returned to the team less than a week ago, after being sidelined by an injury earlier this season, and Duchatellier, who started the season as a part of Hills West’s attack, made the switch to center back when Bloom went down.
The group, including goalkeeper Ben Nacht, who made eight saves, put together a “fantastic defensive effort,” said head coach Doug Gannon.
“With all the injuries we’ve had in the back line, it’s been that next-man-up mentality," Gannon said. "I couldn’t be more proud of these guys for stepping up and doing their job."
On the other end of the field, the Colts got to work earlier.
A little over six minutes into the contest, senior Ben Wichman coolly controlled a through ball from Justin Kroin and delivered a strike from around 10 yards out that found its way into the far corner of Smithtown West’s net. The goal was Wichman’s first of his varsity career.
“That’s the game plan every game: we like to get on teams early,” Gannon said, adding that the Colts are 15-1-1 when scoring first this season. “Once we score first and go into that lockdown mode, we’re very confident.”
The Colts shored up their lead three minutes later, when junior forward Marcus Fraser found William Goldbaum, who snuck the ball past the Bulls’ goalkeeper for his third goal of the playoffs.
Through the remaining 70 minutes of play, the Colts fought off Smithtown West’s attack. The Bulls did appear to score in the waning minutes of the first half, but the goal was waived off due to a violation on a throw in.
The Colts got a defensive reinforcement in the second half as Gannon assigned dynamic playmaker Leo Musacchia to the back line.
“He was the settling piece to that defense,” Gannon said.
Looking ahead to Sunday night, when Hills West will face Nassau champion Uniondale in the Class AA Long Island championship game, Gannon said the game plan will remain somewhat the same against a dynamic Knights squad that likes to play the possession game.
“We want stay with them in that first half and hopefully squeeze out a goal, and then in the second half take control,” he said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Mitchell Field (1 Charles Lindbergh Blvd., Uniondale) on Sunday. There will be a $7 admission fee.