SILVIS — A week after a tough loss to Geneseo in a game decided by penalty kicks, the United Township boys' soccer team had another battle on its hands Tuesday against Quincy.
Welcoming the Blue Devils to the Panther Pitch, UT spent the better part of the first half on the Blue Devils' side of the field and outshot them in the first 40 minutes but could not find the mark.
Instead, a first-half goal by Quincy junior midfielder Carter Venvertloh made the difference as the Blue Devils held on for a 1-0 victory.
"We've been better this year at keeping the games closer, and losing 1-nil to Quincy is not a bad result," said UT coach Phil Weaver, whose 1-3-2 club (1-2 Big 6) has a 2-1 conference win over Sterling to its credit.
A few breaks here and there against Geneseo and now Quincy, and the Panthers could be atop the Big 6 standings.
"Obviously, you don't want to lose when it could put you in a spot to challenge in the Western Big 6," Weaver said. "I told the lads that we can't fault the effort. The energy was there."
As it turned out, Tuesday's win catapulted the Blue Devils (5-2-1, 3-0 WB6) into sole possession of the conference lead after Geneseo fell 2-1 on the road to Galesburg.
"Obviously, we expected a better result, but we'll take it as it comes," said Venvertloh, whose goal with 2:06 left in the first half came off an assist from junior forward Evan Altman.
"We had a couple of chances early (in the first half), but we were able to bury one at the end, which gave us confidence."
It also gave senior goalkeeper Grayson Cook a shot in the arm. Finishing with six saves, Cook was able to fend off a relentless Panther attack.
That included a pair of UT opportunities off corner kicks in the game's closing seconds. Both times, Cook and the Quincy defenders held strong as time expired.
"Toward the end, I had to stay on my toes more," said Cook. "Things got more intense and the play got more physical. But having a goal under our belt, that gave all of us more confidence."
Apart from surrendering the game's lone goal, United Township junior keeper Ismael Hernandez was also equal to the task, recording eight saves.
Most importantly, he kept Quincy from adding to its lead in the second half as the Blue Devils outshot the Panthers 8-3 over the final 40 minutes.
"The important part for us was to not give up the second goal," said Weaver. "Chasing a 1-nil (deficit) as the second half was winding down, that gave us a chance to get back into it."
Early in the second half, UT had a pair of strong scoring opportunities, especially when senior defender Dylan Filby hit forward and classmate Abdelakim Baba-Traore with a perfect feed in front of the net just over 10 minutes in.