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State power

Howland looks the part in 7-0 runaway win

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Howland's Spencer Rose, right, battles with Cardinal Mooney's Brian Philibin for a header Thursday night at YSU.

YOUNGSTOWN — Nearly a year removed from their state title dreams falling a few goals short against Tippecanoe at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, the Howland Tigers continue to prove that they’re the best.

With 10 matches under their belt, and team chemistry starting to excel after losing valuable preseason experience, a motivated Tigers team routed the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals on Thursday night by a score of 7-0 at Youngstown State University.

Seniors Gabriel Altawil and Jordan Sperling were quite the dynamic duo, each recording a hat trick and a pair of assists.

“I think we’re getting better every day,” Howland coach Brian Stiles said. “I think just playing together, because you figure without the four scrimmages, this is our 10th game, and we’re just now starting to get toward what would normally be the middle of the season.

“I think we’re getting a good feel for each other, a lot of these guys have played together, but what people didn’t realize is that we replaced six starters, so we’re starting to get there.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Gabriel Altawil (33) drives down the pitch for Howland during the first half against Mooney.

Altawil, who was one of the catalysts of Howland’s offensive explosion, said he felt that teamwork was key.

“It’s good when you get your strikers and your attacking players some goals,” he said. “The chemistry tonight was really nice between us.”

The scoring started when Sperling had success early on a shot from the right side to give Howland a 1-0 lead at 22:26 in the first half. Altawil scored only minutes later for a 2-0 lead, and found the back of the net two more times to give himself a hat trick before halftime.

Sperling scored two more times in the second half and senior Austin Stassinis capped off the win with a goal himself late in the match.

“We’re developing a nice duo up there,” Sperling said. “Everyone else is putting us in great positions to let us create and score.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Howland senior Spencer Rose, right, of Howland battles for possession with Mooney's Savvas Pizanias.

“Starting from the back, those guys hold it down, constantly pushing the ball forward to give us an opportunity and get in front of the net. It’s a team effort, but we’re really clicking as of now, hopefully we can continue and get to the next level.”

Howland (9-0-1) entered the match ranked second in the Division II OSSCA poll, and has won five straight contests over Mooney. So far they’ve outscored their opponents 32-2 through 10 matches.

Sperling uses the poll as motivation to improve.

“I mean you could look at the rankings, we’re not number one,” he said. “So, that just keeps us going every single day. We’re still chasing, we want to get to that level, so in our heads it’s not good enough.

“We just want to keep improving every day so we get to a level where we can play in a big game and continue to win.”

Mooney drops to 3-2-3 with its only other loss being to Revere, another powerhouse at the state level.

Cardinals coach Matthew Britton felt that his team respected Howland too much, and that the Tigers pounced early.

“They do deserve respect, we showed them a little bit too much respect in our play today and they took clear advantage of it,” he said. “We were too timid going after the ball, we played with a little bit too much fear.

“We were fearful of them getting by us, we were fearful of everything and it was just that, and they just took advantage of that. They were like a shark, they smelled blood in the water and they just went for it.”

Losses against teams like Revere and Howland can be a learning opportunity, but Britton feels that his squad could take this game one or two ways.

“We could be proud of how we’re playing, we’re still progressing, we’re still kind of a young team and the future is bright for this program,” he said. “We just have to be able to rebound from this, because this is a probably a season defining moment here. Do we cave to losing this bad, or do we rebound and never want to feel this feeling again?”

Jak Kenney, Gabriel Lisi and Stassinis each recorded an assist for Howland. Senior goalkeeper Lucas Brill had three saves, while Mooney keeper Erik Vargo tallied nine.

When it’s all said and done, Altawil said he thinks that Howland is coming together at the right time.

“We’re really developing each player, and we’re starting to not have one weak link,” he said. “Because you’re only as strong as your weakest link, so that’s what you need, a real quality overall team.”

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