Tonawanda News — Tonawanda sophomore Nate Holler scored all six Warriors goals in his team's first two playoff games, but on Thursday night it was his passing skills that allowed Tonawanda to knock off No. 2 seed Southwestern.
After the teams battled to a scoreless draw after 80 minutes, Tonawanda wasted no time in overtime when Holler sent a low, line drive pass into the center of the box from outside left to a diving Phil Guiga who headed the game winner past the Trojans' goalkeeper to give the Warriors a 1-0 victory.
"I knew I had to lay out for it because it was pretty low, but I wanted to get there," Guiga said. "I saw (Nate) step to it but I didn't know if it was going to be driven or up in the air. I kind of paused for a second and the ball came to me. I went down for it and connected."
The Warriors (13-6-1, 6-3-1 ECIC IV) were the aggressor in the second half and spent a majority of their time in the Trojans' end. Tonawanda coach James Gabor thought his team won the possession battle, especially in the second half and in overtime.
In the 54th minute Holler got past the defenders and was one-on-one with the keeper after receiving a nice overhead pass. He scored but it was whistled dead on an offsides infraction. In the final 10 minutes, the Warriors had two scoring chances just outside the box, but sent shots just over the crossbar.
Guiga knew that if Tonawanda continued to put the pressure on Southwestern (14-3-2, 9-0-1 CCAA I) it would break through and score.
"We were possessing the ball really well today and we knew we would have our chance," Guiga said. "I told some of our players that I felt like we were outplaying them and I knew — they had some chances — but that we were going to put one in sooner or later."
Five minutes into the game, Tonawanda keeper Jesse Bortz suffered a head injury after taking a foot to the face that put him on the turf for several minutes before he was able to walk off on his own power. Holler was inserted in goal, becoming the third player this season to play between the pipes for the Warriors (regular season starter Cory Compeau will miss the rest of the season with a broken hand).
Bortz showed a lot of toughness by re-entering the game 10 minutes later and stopped every Southwestern shot the rest of the way.
"Jesse played his butt of for us and made a couple key stops," Gabor said. "He's been banged up, left and right, and he's still out there competing."
The three-some of Holler, Guiga and senior Jake Choate have been the offensive workhorses for the Warriors this season. Because of the chemistry between them, they're able to recognize who is playing well on any given night and feed him the ball.
Gabor said he's been most impressed with the group's unselfishness.
"Those three kids work well off each other," Gabor said. "There's no 'me first,' as long as plays are being made it doesn't matter who's scoring. That's the best thing and you know one of those three guys is going to put the ball away for you ... Those are the three guys that we look to to get things going and create things, make things happen. Lucky for us if it's not one it's another there to make something happen."
The Warriors now face No. 4 seed Akronat 3 p.m. Saturday at All High Stadium after the Tigers knocked off No. 1 seed Lackawanna in double overtime last night.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.