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BOYS SOCCER: New Haven scores early to reach regional final VIDEO

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SAGINAW – The New Haven boys soccer team put one type of pressure on Saginaw Nouvel and that forced another kind of pressure.

The pressure to score.

The Rockets’ game plan was to continuously apply pressure on the Panthers until their defense cracked – and it cracked early.

New Haven junior center midfielder Dolan Bonkowski had the ball inside the Panthers’ right corner of the field less than five minutes into the game. He maneuvered his way through multiple defenders, making it to the outskirts of the box. From there, he struck the ball to the opposite side of the net, freezing Saginaw Nouvel junior keeper Matthew Gembrowski in his tracks as the ball sailed by him.

Bonkowski’s goal, his 28th of the season, gave the Rockets a 1-0 lead.

New Haven’s relentless ball pressure and early goal was too much for Saginaw Nouvel to handle, losing 2-0 to the Rockets, who clinched a spot in the Division 4 regional final.

“I feel like we had one of our best performances of the season,” Bonkowski said. “We’re peaking at the right time overall as a group.”

After the goal, control began to set in.

New Haven had chance after chance to extend the lead, but couldn’t put it into the back of the net.

Sophomore Bailey Schade sent a nice through ball to senior Mike Kincaid for a one-on-one situation, but it was broken up. Then, six minutes later, sophomore Alante Stevens set up Kincaid for a two-on-one opportunity, but Gembrowski made the save, keeping it a 1-0 game at halftime.

“I knew they we’re going to come after us within the first 20 minutes (of the second half),” said New Haven head coach Lance Whitney. “We had to weather the storm, but we had to keep pressure on.”

And Whitney was right.

The Panthers came out with a sense of urgency and almost tied the game less than seven minutes into the second half. Sophomore midfielder Samuel Arroyo sent a spot-on cross to junior midfielder James Fabiano, but Fabiano sent his header wide left.

The Rockets goalkeeping and defense stood strong through the flurry of chances and came out of it with Kincaid finally breaking through in the goal column. Sophomore Marquis Perkins sent his sideline throw-in pass into the box, where Kincaid headed it over Gembrowski’s head and into the back-right corner of the net with 21 minutes remaining, giving New Haven an insurance goal.

“We’re playing really well right now. We’re peaking at the right time,” Whitney said. “Soccer is a funny game, anybody can win at anytime and it’s all about getting plays. Saginaw Nouvel is a good team. They’ve got some good players, we just had a couple more opportunities than they did and we took advantage of them. “

The Rockets will play for a regional championship at 4 p.m. Saturday at Saginaw Valley Lutheran against the winner of the Harbor Beach-Lansing Christian regional semifinal.

Last Updated: 10/22/2013 9:30:18 PM EST