WELLS - Matt Michienzi's game-winning overtime goal secured a division title for the Wells Indians on Thursday. The Indians edged out the Crown Point Panthers 3-2 in a Northern Soccer League regular season finale.
Crown Point stormed back in the second half to tie the game at two apiece after trailing 2-0, but Michienzi's goal 3:09 into the overtime period ran Wells' record to 11-1 and assured them at least a share of the Section 7 Division 3 title.
The Indians wasted no time getting on the board. After Wells missed to the left of the goal twice in the first five minutes of play, Adrian Collado found the back of the net off an indirect kick. One minute later, Michienzi headed a crossed ball from Ken Chicoski past Crown Point goalkeeper Brendon Crowningshield.
Wells’ Stephen Raymond (7) blocks a clearing attempt by Crown Point’s Kolby Pertak during Thursday’s Northern Soccer League match at Wells High School. (The Leader-Herald/Shaun Anich)
The Indians dominated for the first 20 minutes.
"When we put those first two goals in a minute apart, we were hustling and running through the ball," said Wells head coach Don Beach. "We were owning midfield."
Crown Point began to figure out their offense as the half wore on. After being outshot 8-1 in the first 20 minutes, the Panthers outshot the Indians 6-4 to finish the half.
Crown Point carried their momentum over to the second half.
"The second half came and we started watching, not running through," said Beach. "They [Crown Point] were moving to the ball and that almost cost us the game."
The Panthers made frequent runs before Noah Macey tapped Crown Point's first goal of the game to the left of Wells goalkeeper Ben Brenan.
Less than one minute later, Michienzi rocketed a ball off the right post in a failed effort to extend the lead for the Indians.
The Panthers passed their way through the Wells defense with success as the half progressed, but Brenan did a good job of plucking Crown Point shot attempts out of the air. Brenan made 10 saves in the game, including seven in the second 40 minutes.
Macey came close to connecting with a possible equalizer with 15 minutes remaining in the half, but a pass from Erick DuShane travelled just long of Macey's foot as he angled toward the goal. With 5:07 remaining, Macey collected a loose ball in front of the goal and shot one past Brenan to knot the score 2-2.
Despite frequent free-for-alls in front of the Crown Point goal throughout the half, Wells could not convert before the buzzer sounded.
"The minute they came over here their heads were up and they were positive," said Beach. "When I see that look from them I know they're going to finish."
With a title one goal away, Michienzi booted the only shot of the overtime period past Crowningshield.
The Indians outshot the Panthers 21-18 in the game. Crowningshaw saved eight balls for Crown Point.
"We couldn't have gotten to this division title without the help of Coach [Rob] Wright," said Beach. "I expect them to get to the Section 7 championship game. They can do it, without a doubt."
Sectional tournament scheduling is to be determined this weekend.