Danny Fernandez, Zach Clookey and Andrew Clauss combined to lead Western Wayne to a thrilling 1-0 victory over perennial Lackawanna League powerhouse Valley View. Fernandez controlled the midfield, while Clookey provided the offense and Clauss notched another shutout.
On the eve of the fall campaign, Matt Fitzsimmons was sure about one thing: the road to a Division Two title would run through Valley View.
Western Wayne’s veteran boys soccer coach has been around long enough to realize that the Cougars are usually the team to beat in the Lackawanna League. So, when the Wildcats lost 1-0 to Valley View in the regular season opener, Coach Fitzsimmons knew a great deal rode on the re-match.
“It was the first game of the year and I really didn’t know what kind of team we had,” Matt told TWI Sports. “The fact that we only lost 1-0 gave me some hope. We’re a much different team than we were back then and I thought we had a real shot at winning.”
As it turns out, Coach Fitzsimmons was right. Western Wayne dominated Tuesday’s match in Varden and emerged with a hard-fought 1-0 victory. With this win, the Wildcats are just a half-game out of first place. Valley View sports a 6-1 record, but Western Wayne is lurking in second at 5-1-1.
While Coach Fitzsimmons will be the first to say that Tuesday’s win was a total team effort, a trio of Wildcats were front & center all night long. Danny Fernandez, Zach Clookey and Andrew Clauss gave Western Wayne the push it needed to claim a spot among the league’s elite.
Fernandez is just a junior but already one of the top midfielders in all of District Two. Danny is the Wildcats’ undisputed on-field leader. He’s blessed with crazy foot skills, sees the field with absolute clarity and possesses an uncanny nose for the ball.
“I’ve seen every team in the league at least once now and there’s no question in my mind that Danny is the best all-round player out there,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “Everything we do on offense goes through Danny. He really makes our team go.”
While Fernandez rules the midfield with an iron foot, Zach Clookey provides Western Wayne with some much-needed scoring punch up front. Another member of a talented junior class,
Zach excels both on the soccer pitch and in the wrestling room. Clookey moved into the school district four years ago from upstate New York. In addition to scholastic sports, he’s a dedicated and enthusiastic outdoorsman.
Zach loves to patrol the woods in search of deer with his Dad and Grandfather. On Tuesday night, however, Clookey was hunting Cougars instead of white-tails.
“I know that if we can beat Valley View and keep focused, we’ll have a shot at winning the league,” he said. “I was a freshman the last time we beat them in soccer. This one felt better, though, because I scored a goal.”
Clookey’s goal against Valley View qualifies as the biggest of his career. So far.
Zach chased down a perfect through-ball from teammate Kyle Strizalkouski and bore down on the Cougar net. When Valley View keeper Josh Roberts stayed back, Clookey dribbled in to point blank range and let rip.
The ball rocketed into the back of the net and gave Western Wayne a 1-0 lead.
“Once I hit the 12-yardline and he was still sitting back, I knew I had him,” Zach said with a smile. “I took a couple more touches and then I took the shot. It was an awesome feeling.”
Despite the emotion of that moment, the Wildcats still had a long way to go. Clookey’s goal came at the 55:00 mark of the second half...which meant Valley View still had ample time to mount a comeback.
Andrew Clauss came into Tuesday’s match as the Lackawanna League’s hottest keeper. TWI Sports’ reigning Athlete of the Week had posted three straight shutouts and now faced the stiffest test of his senior season.
For Western Wayne to prevail in this one, Clauss knew he’d probably have to pitch yet another shutout.
“Right now, there’s nobody better in the league,” Coach Fitzsimmons said of his veteran keeper. “I have complete confidence in Drew and so do his teammates.”
Clauss rewarded that confidence with another stellar performance. Andrew stopped every shot he faced en route to 11 saves. He also turned away three Valley View corners in extending his scoreless streak to a school-record tying nine halves.