For the first 19 games of this season, the Westfield boys’ soccer team had two offensive forces at play. Sean Murnane and Irvin Herrera combined to score 41 goals and added another 29 assists, giving the Bulldogs what head coach Tom Torres referred to as a pair of “bazookas.”
But for the team’s 20th game — and second time overall — Westfield was missing one of its primary pieces of artillery. Murnane, after scoring the game-winning goal with eight seconds left in the fourth overtime of Westfield’s Virginia AAA state quarterfinal victory over Cosby this past Tuesday, injured his right knee.
Though Murnane was able to finish a deflection off of the right post, a Cosby defender crashed into his knee. The result was a torn right lateral meniscus, Murnane learned at halftime on Saturday night. It would require immediate surgery.
With the team’s top weapon wearing a pair of untied Vans sneakers and black warm-up pants, Murnane could only offer verbal assistance. Herrera tried in vain to account for Murnane’s part of the offensive load, but the Bulldogs eventually dropped a 4-0 decision to Frank W. Cox, marking only the second time since 1997 that a Northern Region team would not be represented in the state title game.
Frank W. Cox will play Mills Godwin in Sunday’s final, scheduled for 4 p.m. at Westfield.
“They were very good. If we’re not looking at the next state champion, hats off definitely to Mills Godwin,” Torres said. “That team was great. You can’t take anything away from them. But obviously we would’ve liked to have finished our chances.”
<b>WESTFIELD STARTED</b> strong and Herrera nearly made it 1-0 in the game’s 12th minute, shaking a defender while moving from his right to his left. But Herrera’s efforts would go for naught, as Cox grabbed a 1-0 lead when Hunter Byrnes finished a cross from Will Martin in the 13th minute.
After Cox began to tilt the field in its favor, Martin continued his assault on the Bulldogs, setting up Paul Braunstein for the Falcons’ second goal with a little more than two minutes remaining before halftime.
That, Torres would later say, was a killer.
Martin moved in to the right of Westfield goalkeeper Kody Palmer, who after deflecting Martin’s shot was beaten to the loose ball by a sliding Braunstein.
“I think that definitely broke the sails,” Torres said.
In the second half, Martin scored both of the Falcons’ goals, the first off of an assist from Matt Zackary and the second by himself. It was an offensive performance that Westfield had seen before. It was also an offensive performance that Westfield, with its star player on the bench, was incapable of replicating on this night.
“I kept telling people, we were going up an arsenal against Cox. We normally had two bazookas, and we were going in with one,” Torres said. “One bazooka just wasn’t going to be enough to beat the arsenal that Cox had.”