Zach Shuk was perfect for North Farmington (7-2-3, 4-1-1) on Tuesday night.
Actually, he’s been perfect for six consecutive nights – and counting – with the latest round of flawless goalkeeping coming at home along with a 2-0 victory over Birmingham Seaholm (5-3-4, 3-3-2) in a battle of OAA White leaders.
Shuk was the best player on the field again, making eight saves against a relentless Seaholm attack that was getting a majority of the chances early on.
“The boys came out a little flat,” North Farmington coach Erika Rust said. “They were playing more not to lose than to win.”
North Farmington countered Seaholm’s perimeter ball control by suffocating attackers with a sturdy backline that runs five deep.
“I thought Seaholm carried the game during the first half,” Rust said. “They possessed the ball really well, but our team defense was able to keep them from getting quality looks.”
After a scoreless first half, North Farmington caught a break when Matthew Swarthout was taken down by a defender in the box, resulting in a converted Andrew George penalty kick to put the home team up 1-0.
“He’s one of our most dangerous forwards, so we trusted him with that kick,” Rust said.
After a slew of unconverted chances, George’s goal was devastating for a Seaholm team that had been pressing hard all game.
“I felt like it was close until they got their PK,” Seaholm coach Jared Vince said. “You try to get the boys to learn quickly … formations, where their weaknesses are. It was really just that they got one ball forward and that was the difference.”
In a closely contested 1-0 game, Shuk repeatedly came up with big saves in the game’s final stages.
“Every time that we felt like we had the momentum going he would make a big save and get their boys fired up,” Vince said.
Tuesday’s match was the eighth clean sheet this year for the Shuk, who is putting together an impressive resume during his junior season.
“He’s done a great job of verbally directing the entire defense,” Rust said. “He’s very vocal, the guys trust him, and the backline… they’ve always been trustworthy, defensive-minded, shutdown players."
With five minutes remaining, a perfectly placed cross through the goalmouth from Anthony Damiani found the foot of Cole Arnold before hitting the back of the net and putting a dagger in Seaholm’s comeback hopes.
“Credit Seaholm. They held our opportunities down. They possessed the ball well, I think they carried the play, I think this is just one of those games where we just capitalized when we had to,” Rust said. “It was a big league win for us.”
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer