Brock Netter, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Although Thursday’s victory over Wilmington was a huge physical test for Unioto, Saturday was a mental test.
The Shermans passed both with flying colors.
Despite being physically tired, admittedly by head coach Brandon Hanes, Unioto (4-1) locked in mentally in the second half to score a 2-0 victory over Fairfield Union in non-conference action.
“Honestly, we came out really flat and it wasn’t our typical look,” Hanes said. “Coming off a really tough win over D-I Wilmington, I figure the guys would be a little tired and that was the case. But we have to learn to play through adversity because I believe this team has a very high ceiling. The win is nice, but our efforts wasn’t completely there.”
Both defenses were at the center of attention throughout a scoreless first half. Unioto had its chances to score, but Fairfield Union goalie Tyler McClellan was there at every stop to negate any ball from getting through.
Playing with no regard for his body, he routinely dove left and right for saves, including outrunning Unioto’s Vijay Wangui and diving for a save on what looked to be a sure goal.
“He was playing really high and we kept doing the same thing,” Hanes said. “We were trying to get the guys to test him once in a while by serving a ball long while he was backpedaling to keep him honest. He kept coming out and we kept giving him the ball. He played a really solid game.”
On the flip side, Unioto’s back row was holding it down and minimizing any chances on a Falcons’ shot attempt in the final third of the field.
Though young, the Sherman defenders played like seasoned veterans at every step of the way.
“Our back four is going to keep us in every game,” Hanes said. “Despite being young and inexperienced, they played very well. We only have one senior back there and our goalie is a freshman as well, and he came up with some nice saves when he needed to.”
It took less than two minutes into the second half for Unioto to finally break through. Wangui beat a pair of defenders, but McClellan was there to stop it. However, the ball ricocheted back to Wangui, who snuck it past the Falcon goalie for the goal.
“That goal got us more excited and ready to finish strong,” junior forward Ethan Kerns said. “It got us moving again and opened up a few passing lanes as well. [Fairfield Union] was coming at us, but we kept passing around them. It changed everything.”
Wangui wasn’t finished yet, but he needed a little assistance from Kerns. After earning a free kick, Kerns placed a perfect ball into the box where Wangui finished it with a diving header into the back of the net with less than five minutes left in the game.
“I was almost waiting for the goalie to come out because he had been doing so all game,” Kerns said. “But he sat back and waited this time, so I put the ball on the back post and dropped in perfectly in position for Vijay to get his head on it. It was a sweet play he made.”
The win marks back-to-back victories for the Shermans. Hanes had a much broader outlook afterwards.
“We played terrible, yet still found a way to win against a solid team in our district that we could face in the tournament,” Hanes said. “Our defense was great and held it together while our offense was still generating. To play bad and still win, that’s a huge plus.”
Unioto is back in action on Thursday, hosting Beechcroft.