The excitement of the postseason didn’t add anything new between University Lab and Riverside Academy.
The No. 2 Cubs (26-1-2) cruised to their third victory of the season over the No. 23 Rebels (9-10-3) — this time with a 5-0 win in the quarterfinals of the Division III playoffs.
U-High won both regular-season meetings by a combined score of 15-1.
Before the game, U-High coach Chris Mitchell emphasized the importance of a fast start against the Rebels in order to break the momentum they built in the first two rounds of the playoffs, which were also the first postseason games in program history.
And getting out to a fast start is exactly what the Cubs did, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes of play.
Senior Thomas Kobetz opened up scoring in the fifth minute when he knocked a ball from point-blank range off the cross from forward Maddy Vick.
The Cubs followed up just five minutes later when Miguel Vilas sent a ball into the back post, where a sprinting Scot McKenzie headed the ball into the net.
The final score of the half came in the 23rd minute when defender Ben Smith ripped a no-look, turnaround volley from 10 yards out.
“It was very huge, especially since we were nursing some injuries and this team had a little bit of momentum coming into it,” Mitchell said. “We wanted to start fast and go after them.”
The difference-maker for U-High came from headers in the box as the Cubs produced three such goals during the game, including two in the second half.
Junior defender John Kurpius flicked a Major Mittendorf free kick into the net late in the game for the fourth goal of the day, while Grant Smith — typically a keeper for U-High — got in on the action with a header stemming from a free kick just before the final whistle blew.
“We had been practicing the free kicks in practice a lot and just trying to get into the box and get to the ball,” Kurpius said. “I just got out in front of it and had a lucky stroke.”
By the end of 80 minutes, U-High outshot the Rebels 18-4 despite resting several key players in the second half, including Kobetz and Vilas.
After the game, Riverside coach Jonathan Reed said he couldn’t be more proud of his team. They squeaked into the playoffs after what he referred to as a “foundation year,” but came together to produce the best season in program history.
“To be one of the top eight in the Division III quarterfinals for a very young program speaks volumes about our kids,” Reed said. “You can’t coach heart, and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”