MARION — When not slipping into panic mode, the Marion Wildcats dominated the Centralia Orphans in semifinals of the Marion Class 2A soccer regional Tuesday, emerging with a 4-1 victory.
The Wildcats totally controlled the first half, building a 2-0 lead on goals by Josh Szidik and Tyson Smith while limiting the Orphans to a single shot on goal.
That dominance continued early in the second half when the Wildcats missed a couple of opportunities to expand the lead, most notably on a close-range blast by Jacob Murphy. Murphy created some space from himself right of the Centralia goal and ripped a shot toward the short side.
Centralia goaltender Edoardo Riva dove across to bat the shot away.
Then, a strange thing happened. The Orphans were finally able to relieve the pressure. Bayron Cruz took full advantage, driving to the goal and putting the ball behind Camden Dodds.
The game changed markedly on that play.
“We started to panic a little bit,” said Marion coach Rob Underwood. “I yelled at them, ‘Patience, there’s no reason to panic.’ There’s still a lot of time to play.’
“I’d say 80-85 percent we had controlled the game. Then, just one little mistake and we fell apart on the back line. So, we panicked.”
Centralia had defeated Marion 1-0 at Centralia earlier this season.
The Orphans kept the pressure on for the next 10 minutes, nearly scoring on a Riva penalty kick at the 25-minute mark. Dodds managed to leap and tip the ball over the crossbar.
The game turned back to Marion’s favor just as quickly when Szidik made a solid individual move on the left side, cut back to the middle of the field and buried his second goal.
“We got that third goal, that helped calm them down a little bit more,” Underwood said.
Marion got highlight reel icing on the cake at the 19:43 mark when Tyson Stoecklin scored on a bicycle kick after a nifty setup by Kameron Dover.
“He’s been trying that all season long and he finally got it,” Underwood said. “Unfortunately the battery died on our video so we don’t even have it on video for him.”
While the Wildcats put four goals on the board, the Marion defense was virtually impenetrable.
“My defensive line is strong,” Underwood said. “I’ve got the four back guys and I’ve got two guys that come off the bench that are just as strong.”
The 12-9-2 Wildcats advance to Saturday’s 11 a.m. regional championship against Anna-Jonesboro/Cobden. The Wildcats were 6-1 winners over Richland County.
The winners got a pair of goals from Jaryt Tripp. Anna-Jonesboro/Cobden led just 2-1 at the half, but Tripp scored just a couple minutes into the second half and the rout was on.