Eastern Pennsylvania 2, New Jersey 1
Carter Houlihan is often the most noticeable player on every field he touches. Playing up top or out wide as a forward, he darts through, around and past defenses with abandon. After Houlihan's goal and assist performance in the Eastern Pennsylvania U17 Boys' 2-1 ODP East Region Championship win over New Jersey on Sunday, the New Jersey coach suggested to Don Brady, coach of Eastern Pennsylvania, "that you can rest Carter every once in awhile."
The advice was a joke--not to mention a little late--as New Jersey came close to upsetting the defending regional champions. Following Jamie Stewart's first-half goal, New Jersey equalized early in the second half. That scoreline stayed into the dying minutes, when Ben Vollmer turned in the midfield and delivered an outside-of-the-foot ball Carter's way. The six-year ODP veteran faked like he was going to hold the ball before letting it run by himself and his defender. Then he took off. In on goal, Houlihan slotted a shot through the keeper's legs and into the back of the net.
"We were pressuring them the whole game, especially in the first half," said Houlihan. "The second half, they came out on our end, and I just know we had to get a goal, or else, maybe, extra time would come, and it's too hot for that."
Indeed, the heat and humidity made for an uncomfortable morning at the Kirkwood Soccer Complex (DE). But it couldn't slow down Houlihan. He and his teammates wanted to go out in style.
"It was perfect," Houlihan said. "We came out last year, and we won it. This year, playing with mainly the same team, and winning on a late goal like that, you can't write it any better."
Vollmer was one key addition to the squad. A State College resident, he played for PA-West ODP in the past, although his address falls inside Eastern Pennsylvania. He crossed the state last fall for tryouts.
"I played with four or five of them (on the Region I team), so it was pretty easy to make the switch," said Vollmer. "You know, it's a great group of guys. The chemistry is great. Everybody was so welcoming, and it was just an awesome experience overall."
Playing alongside Thomas Hoy in the midfield, Vollmer helped slow the pace as New Jersey threatened in the second half. That composure set the stage for the winning goal. This group, as a whole, showed their championship experience.
"It was our trust in each other," Vollmer said. "We've been playing together for a while. We know each other. And we know what we're capable of.
"Today was just a great way to cap off our ODP careers."
Playing as a central midfielder, Ben Vollmer was crucial in possession and provided the assist on Carter Houlihan's region-winning goal.
After a long sprint, Carter Houlihan fired the winner through the keeper's legs. He celebrated in style with Nevin Baer (29) and Ben Vollmer (13).