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Staff photo / Brian Yauger

The Howland Tigers celebrate after their first goal of the night by Tristen Rose, 10. Rose had three goals on the night.

“I thought we played well,” Tigers coach Brian Stiles said. “We were looking forward to the competition, someone from outside the Youngstown area. I thought it took the kids a minute to acclimate to the speed of the game, but once we did I thought we played pretty well, especially in the second half.”

Specifically, it took Howland three minutes to get acclimated to the speed of the game as Tristen Rose got his team on the board with 36:59 remaining in the half. After that, the Tigers weren’t able to get another on the board for a while, despite multiple opportunities.

“We got an early goal, but after that it was a little slow,” senior midfielder Gabriel Alta-

wil said. “We missed a few great chances and then they nicked one back on us and it just became an intense game. Then we just played really well, especially in the second half. Our compact organization was really well and it won us the game honestly.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger

Howland senior Austin Stassinis, left reaches in to steal the ball from a Green attacker.

At the midway point of the first half, the Bulldogs got on the board to knot the score at 1. The Tigers haven’t allowed many goals this season, and seeing a number other than zero on the ‘Guest’ section of the scoreboard lit a fire under the defending Division II state runners-up.

“I think it’s only the fourth goal we’ve given up this year so it was for sure a slap in the face,” Altawil said. “We realized we had to pick it up. I think we took that goal with a grain of salt and just came back and had to put a few more on.”

The Tigers certainly did put a few more on as they scored two more goals in the first half, and then an additional six in the second.

Rose went on to score two more goals. Altawil finished the night with three goals, and Jordan Sperling, Gabe Lisi and Spencer Rose each had a goal.

What made the difference in the second half was patience.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger

Tigers sophomore Jak Kenney gets in position to take possession of the ball during the constant rain of Thursday night’s game.

“I thought we did a better job of sitting and letting them make bad decisions,” Stiles said. “When they were making poor decisions, we have players that can hurt you pretty bad. One bad pass leads to two or three of our better players and that can be a problem for anybody.”

Howland has a relatively young back end, and one of the keys going into the postseason is to further the seasoning of the young players. Senior Lucas Brill didn’t have to face many shots due to the success of the defense, but having Brill in net has been a big help in getting the young players acclimated to the varsity game.

“We have a great goalkeeper who keeps them organized, because we’re fairly young back there,” Stiles said. “Because we lost a lot of the summer and a lot of the scrimmages, we were worried about them developing, but for the most part they’ve done pretty well with that.

“We’ve believed in them this long, and the great thing is they have some dynamic strikers coming at them every day in practice, which is an advantage a lot of teams don’t have. I think that’s accelerated their learning curve quite a bit.”

The top-seeded Tigers close out their regular season with a home match against Shaker Heights on Saturday.

Stiles loves having teams outside the Mahoning Valley on the schedule because once a team makes it out of the district, the odds of facing a local team slim down, so facing Canton or Cleveland-area teams provides a perfect test for the postseason.

“It’s important for us to see how we match up against a lot of these Cleveland teams as we move into the postseason,” Stiles said. “We’re not going to change too much. We should have a good feel for the speed we need to play at now.”

Howland opens its postseason schedule against either Ravenna or Salem.

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