CHAMPAIGN — Two moments separated by roughly 30 seconds perfectly encapsulated the action Tuesday evening at Centennial Soccer Complex.
Danville vs. Centennial in a prep soccer game at Centennial in Champaign on Tuesday, September 17, 2019.
First, Danville’s Chris DeMoss uncorked a slicing shot that Centennial goalkeeper Max Wallace tracked down via a diving stop.
Then, Charger Matt Pianfetti raced in tight on Vikings netminder Tyler Finley, only to ring an attempt off the near post and collapse in a frustrated heap.
That these events occurred within the Big 12 Conference match’s final three minutes was a cherry on top, even if the sides wound up drawing 0-0.
“Lot of fun,” said Finley, who turned aside 12 shots for Danville (4-5-1, 0-1-1 Big 12). “Me and my team worked really well to keep it that way, so we’ll look forward to getting a win in more games like that.”
The Vikings entered the road tilt on a four-match losing streak and hadn’t posted a shutout on the year.
So Monday’s result was described by Danville coach Brent Lockhart in his postmatch huddle as half a victory.
“We’ve been looking to get our keeper a clean sheet,” Lockhart said. “This is finally a game where I saw them fighting all the way back in both halves. It doesn’t matter if it was one minute left in the game — I saw the fight there, and that’s what we need going forward.”
The Vikings came closest to altering the scoreboard — and, indeed, Danville was awarded a brief 1-0 lead about 14 minutes into the contest.
Armando Segura connected with Gustavo Segura on a picture-perfect through ball, which the latter Segura headed past Wallace.
But offsides was called, quieting the Vikings’ celebration.
Moise York also bashed a shot off a post later in the first half, but Danville couldn’t get anything to stick offensively.
“This is probably the first time where the defense had confidence, and when they received a ball they would look down the field,” Lockhart said. “They pushed up with that and did a great job.”
For Centennial (3-3-2, 1-1-1), significant scoring opportunities proved hard to come by in the opening period.
A quick flurry midway through the second half generated two corner kicks and one shot on goal, though Pianfetti’s late clanger served as the Chargers’ nearest conversion.
“We’ve just got to be more composed in the final third,” Centennial boss Jim Meissen said. “We’re rushing. We’re trying to do too many things. ... (We need) a little bit better control on the first touch, see guys in there and put it in spaces that are more dangerous.”
Wallace stood tall while the Chargers found their footing, turning in nine saves on the night in his own first shutout of the campaign.
“Our game before was kind of rough,” Wallace said. “This was a good game to gain progress from, and we’re moving forward. We saw a lot of good things happen (Tuesday), so I’m happy with it.”
The Centennial defense boasts just one senior, which means 12th-grader Wallace’s presence in the backfield carries even more importance.
“He’s exceptional,” Meissen said. “An athletic freak. Absolutely positive. Great player, great mindset and a great team leader.”
Wallace’s counterpart in Finley, just a sophomore by comparison, likely earned some leadership points from his Viking teammates by shaking off shin and hip pain suffered in a pair of collisions with Centennial players.
“Got to stay in,” Finley said. “Don’t want to get too confident, definitely, because there’s obviously good teams out there, and if you get overconfident that just makes you lose.”