PUNXSUTAWNEY — In rainy, windy and soggy conditions Saturday at Jack LaMarca Stadium, the Punxsy boys' soccer team was able to maintain an upbeat tempo en route to a 5-0 win over the Elk County Catholic Crusaders.
The Chucks jumped on the Crusaders early when Brycen Lunger fired a shot at the net in the first minute of the game. Elk County's keeper came out to play the ball, but Punxsy's Tyler Presloid beat him to it and headed it just out of his reach, and the ball rolled into the cage giving Punxsy a very-early 1-0 lead.
Punxsy's high tempo led to plenty of scoring opportunities throughout the game, and Punxsy head coach Phil Shenkle was glad to see how well his team was moving the ball.
"My assistant and I were talking about how good their ball control was in conditions this bad," he said. "The field was a mess. Our ball control was just fantastic. Considering the conditions, I'm very pleased with our performance."
In the fourth minute, Punxsy's Ty Zimmerman just missed on two opportunities for the Chucks, and in the ninth minute, Presloid's free kick was pushed aside by the keeper.
In the next ten minutes, scoring attempts by Punxsy's Tanner Evans and Trevor Peace just missed as well, before Presloid added his second goal of the game in the 17th minute.
Presloid received a pass in the box, used some fancy footwork to avoid two defenders and snuck the shot under the diving keeper.
Elk County earned its first shot of the game in the 26th minute, but Punxsy keeper Dan Triponey was sharp and snagged the ball before any damage could be done.
The Crusaders' second shot came in the 30th minute after they kept the ball in Punxsy's zone for over three minutes, but Triponey was up to the challenge again and made the save to keep the shutout intact.
With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Punxsy managed to push its lead to three goals when a cross-field pass was deflected in front of the net, and Punxsy's Kevin Hughes beat two ECC defenders and the keeper to the ball to knock it home.
Despite leading by three goals, Punxsy came out firing in the second half, as well.
In the third minute, Presloid barely missed his third goal with a roller just wide of the left post, and in the eighth minute, Dane Roken made a nice pass to set up Hughes, who nearly scored again.
In the tenth minute, Lunger's long shot was deflected out of bounds to set up a Punxsy corner kick. Roken sent a near-perfect corner toward the goal, and Presloid almost connected for a header goal.
Presloid was swarming, and he finally scored his third in the 13th minute assisted by Peace.
One minute later, Peace nearly made it a five goal lead setting up a pair of ECC clears for Punxsy corner kicks.
On the second corner, Roken dropped instead of attacking the goal, and Lunger reversed field to Ryan Presloid, who drove the ball past the keeper for Punxsy's final goal in the 15th minute.
Punxsy's players erupted in excitement for Presloid, who is a defenseman and sees fewer scoring chances than most players on the team.
Shenkle noted that his defenders played well and contributed to the offense in Saturday's game, even though it may not show up on the stat sheet.
"They were doing a great job of clearing the ball out and pushing up," he said. "They provided pressure, and that allows the midfielders to score or at least apply some pressure of their own."
At that point, the officials decided that the rain was taking its toll on the field, and the game could no longer be played safely.
The game was then called, giving Punxsy the 5-0 victory and improving its record to 10-1 — its best start in the program's history.
"I know the other team's probably not happy the refs called it early," Shenkle said. "But we play them again in about a week-and-a-half, and we know they'll be ready and wanting that game badly."
Punxsy can't be looking ahead to that game yet, though, as the Chucks travel to DuBois Tuesday to take on the Beavers, who happen to be the only ones to hand Punxsy a loss this year.
Shenkle and his team look forward to seeing if they are up to the test this time around.