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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

I-Prep Keeps Streak Alive

Prior to the start of the new season, I-Prep boys’ varsity soccer coach Tony Alessi said that he believed that there was a rise in talent across the board among city schools.

Slowly but surely every program was starting to feel the impact of the influx of international student-athletes who all come from a soccer background.

The formula that has helped I-Prep become a powerhouse has rippled to the other programs creating a more even playing field.

Proof of this was seen in Thursday’s contest between I-Prep and Hutch-Tech.

Pa Lu scored twice, including the game-winning goal, as I-Prep beat Hutch-Tech, 3-0, in D’Youville Cup Division I action that was played at All-High Stadium.

“Yeah exactly. There’s no more easy games in League I,” said Alessi.

“Hutch-Tech is tough, McKinley is tough, Riverside is tough, Olmstead is tough, City Honors is tough, we’re tough. Lafayette, they’re on a roll right now and playing great. It’s a very competitive league. I think it’s one of the most competitive leagues in all of Western New York.”

Improving to 6-1 on the season, the Presidents won their sixth game in a row since dropping a 3-2 final to St.Joe’s on the opening day of the season. A game in which Lu saw limited action.

While the final score may suggest that I-Prep breezed to another win, that was hardly the case as the speedy and young Engineers hung tough until the final whistle.

Tech’s sophomore keeper Soe Soe Aye made a number of brilliant saves against the high-powered I-Prep offense in the first half to keep his team in the game.

“I’m happy he’s a sophomore,” said Hutch-Tech coach John Jakiel, “so hopefully I’ll have him for two more years and he’s only going to get better.”

Defensively, Hutch-Tech dropped back to using it’s speed and agility in an attempt to contain Lu, the league’s leading scorer and top candidate for WNY Player of the Year. Despite the fact that Hutch collapsed it’s defense around Lu, he was still able to find the open space as he picked up his 14th and 15th goals of the season.

“Yeah he really did have to earn those two goals,” Alessi said. “Every time he touched the ball they had bodies around him and it made it really hard for him to move. They were hard earned goals, but that’s what good players do. They find a way to score.”

Lu’s first goal came off of a corner kick by Than Win Naing midway through the first half. Sabtow Abdikarim extended the lead to 2-0 when he scored off the rebound on a shot that was originally taken by Abdullah Hussein. Aye had to react quickly to stop the booming shot by Hussien, but because it was such an instantaneous reaction Aye was unable to totally absorb the shot to prevent the rebound.

The Engineers tried to pack the box in an effort to cut down on room for Lu to maneuver, but I-Prep is so quick and skilled as a team that they kept coming in waves and they eventually were able to ware the young Hutch-Tech squad down.

“We played a formation to maintain as best of a defensive posture as we could to counteract what they do, but still, they were able to make it through us,” Jakiel said. “So we’re strong, but not strong enough to the point where we can keep them off the board. We tried. We did our darnedest. That was the name of the game to try and keep it as close as we can and maybe we’d have an opportunity to sneak one in.”

Sophomore Rashid Put picked up his sixth consecutive shutout as I-Prep has now outscored its opponents 33-0 in the last six games. Hutch-Tech’s Min Zo almost brought an end to that scoreless streak in the first half when he booted the ball to the upper corner of the net, just above Put’s reach. But Zo had too much spin on the ball and it sailed just over the crossbar.

“It’s awesome,” said Pa Lu. “We work as a team. Whatever is coming we’re prepared for it. We all want to go far so we work as a team.”

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