After cruising to a 7-0 victory over New Life Christian School of Frederick County in the opening round of the Maryland Christian Schools Tournament just 24 hours prior, the Grace Christian Academy boys soccer team got off to another fast start in Tuesday’s quarterfinal match versus visiting Salisbury Christian.
Two goals in the first six minutes of the first half turned out to be just enough in the end as the second-seeded Knights held off the seventh-seeded Jaguars of Wicomico County in a 2-1 victory.
Grace (18-3 overall), the Metro Independent Schools Athletic League regular season and tournament champions, advanced to the MCST semifinals on Thursday and hosted Washington Christian Academy of Montgomery County. The winner advanced to Saturday’s championship game, which is scheduled to be played at Annapolis Area Christian School in Severn.
“Salisbury came out with a lot of heart and energy and we knew who their weapons were, they are well coached,” Grace head coach Dan Perotta said. “To move on to the next round I’m very proud of my boys, but we have to work to do to finish up this tournament strong.”
The Knights did not waste any time on the attack as freshman forward Jashua Cody-Jackson got out in transition and scored the game’s first goal in the first 40 seconds.
Five minutes later, senior striker Zach Wittlinger, the Knights’ leading scorer, scored on corner kick from Brady Tippett to push the lead to 2-0, which would be the eventual halftime score.
Despite the two-goal deficit, it was a battle in the second half as Salisbury Christian (7-11) got on the board when Joe Tolbert headed in a shot into the back of the net on a cross from Cameron Johnson with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
The Jaguars had several scoring chances late in the second half, but the Knights defense was able to preserve the lead with strong defense.
A big part of the defensive effort was junior Noah Jones, who finished the game with 21 saves.
“We were a little bit out of it,” Jones said. “After we scored those two goals quick, we backed off and had a let down, but we pulled it out. Last year we got knocked out in the [quarterfinals] in this tournament. It just goes to show you how much we’ve progressed since last season.”
The Knights were without Wittlinger for Thursday’s semifinal contest after receiving a red card in the last five minutes of the Tuesday’s game from running into Salisbury Christian goalkeeper Luke Shiderly.
“We gave up a couple goals in the first half on defensive mistakes. Some things didn’t go our way, but our effort and attitude was the only thing we could control,” Salisbury Christian head coach C.J. Huntington said. “We came out and won the second half and played hard. We just came up short. All season it’s been hard for us to come back from a lead.”