Lakers blank Knights

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Eisenhower keeper Nick Smelko punches the ball away from the net during a match against Mercyhurst Prep at Eisenhower High School, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Smelko held the Region 3 leaders to four goals, but the Knights were shutout by the Lakers.

The Eisenhower boys soccer team certainly can’t be accused of trying to schedule “soft” non-region opponents to close out their season.

The Knights welcomed Region 3 leader Mercyhurst Prep Wednesday, and the Lakers demonstrated exactly why they’re atop the standings in a 4-0 win over Eisenhower.

“This is the caliber of team you want to play this time of year,” Eisenhower coach Todd Venman said. “You can see what you’re made of and see how you’ve progressed at the end of the season.”

The Lakers wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as Niall Sweeney collected a pass in front and shot to the short side, giving Mercyhurst a 1-0 lead just 1:29 into the match.

Rabin Subedi doubled the lead two minutes later. Subedi shot from the left side and bent the ball under the crossbar to make it 2-0.

“We started slow,” Venman said. “This was our third game this week and we were a little worn.”

The Knights were able to lock things down a bit following that early barrage. Mercyhurst had the edge in possession time, but Eisenhower was able to generate some offensive chances.

Sweeney netted his second of the game at 14:24. Eisenhower keeper Nick Smelko was able to stop a pair of shots, but the second rebound went right to Sweeney’s foot and the senior midfielder had a wide open net to shoot at.

Eisenhower didn’t allow Mercyhurst to have anymore quality chances through the end of the first half and for the early portion of the second.

Offensively, the Knights were able to generate some quality scoring chances of their own, but couldn’t finish the shot.

“We got some good pokes,” Venman said. “We just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The Lakers final goal came after miscommunication on a throw-in. Mercyhurst had the throw deep in Knights territory. Smelko called for the ball as it approached the net, but another Knight player got his body on the ball. The ball bounced out to center where Subedi was waiting to punch it into the net.

Being a late-season non-region contest, and with the Lakers having a big lead, both teams agreed to allow their junior varsity (for Mercyhurst) and younger players (for Eisenhower) play out the remainder of the match.

“Our young players got some time,” Venman said. “For us not having a JV team, it’s always a win to get those players in.”

Venman was especially impressed with the play of sophomore left back Jacoby Wallin.

“He really stepped up and did a phenomenal job,” Venman said.

Eisenhower travels to Smethport Saturday for a matchup with District 9’s Hubbers.