By: John Knebels
Photos/Videos: James Williamson, Alexandra Conroy (Episcopal Academy), Patty Morgan and Kevin Murphy
You hear it all the time. Coaches say it. Players say it.
Others? Not so much, because it usually sounds politically correct and lacks sincerity.
We’re talking about the oft-annoying adage, “Anybody can beat anybody on a given day.” Understandable to say, and technically correct. But in reality? Upsets rarely occur.
Then comes a season like this in Catholic League soccer, and there’s an “aha” moment. The reason why coaches and players make such a claim is precisely because of what occurred over the past week and a half.
First, Archbishop Wood stunned La Salle by an alarming 4-0, a triumph that snapped two-time defending champion La Salle’s two-year winning streak against PCL opponents. Two days later, Wood faced Roman Catholic and had a chance to take over the league, but the juggernaut Cahillites prevailed, 1-0.
Meanwhile, Father Judge was on a roll, especially offensively. Take away a 3-0 loss to Roman, and the Crusaders had the look of a true contender. But they had not beaten a mainstay.
That is, until Tuesday, when Father Judge startled Archbishop Wood, 2-1 . . . and Lansdale Catholic defeated struggling Archbishop Ryan, 1-0, in overtime . . . and St. Joseph’s Prep edged La Salle, 2-1, the Hawks’ first victory over the Explorers in ages.
See the trend? Outside of a red-hot Roman Catholic, right now there is significant parity in the Catholic League. That provides proof to squads such as Archbishop Carroll, Devon Prep, Lansdale Catholic, Cardinal O’Hara, and Archbishop Ryan– the probable sixth-through-10th playoff participants – that climbing the ranks of this year’s PCL is quite possible with some stellar play and maybe a break or two.
Heading into the final three games of the regular season, outside of beating Roman, no longer should anything be considered a major surprise. Well, within reason, but you get the gist.
The current PCL standing are as follows: Roman Catholic, 9-0; La Salle 7-2; Father Judge 6-1-2; Archbishop Wood 7-2; St. Joseph’s Prep 6-1-1; ; Archbishop Carroll 5-4-2; Devon Prep 4-4-1; Lansdale Catholic 4-3-1; Cardinal O’Hara 2-7-1; Archbishop Ryan 2-5; Bonner-Prendergast 1-6-2; Conwell-Egan 0-8; and Bishop McDevitt 0-9.
All of the current top five teams have potential minefields ahead. Roman Catholic still faces La Salle and Lansdale Catholic; La Salle has a rugged stretch against Devon Prep, Father Judge, and Roman; Father Judge still must take on Lansdale Catholic, LaSalle, and Archbishop Ryan; St. Joseph’s Prep will meet Devon Prep, Archbishop Wood, and Ryan; and Archbishop Wood will play Archbishop Carroll, Lansdale Catholic, and St. Joseph’s Prep.
For teams jockeying in position to clinch a playoff spot and a home match, particularly important remaining contests include Cardinal O’Hara vs. Archbishop Ryan, and Lansdale Catholic vs. Father Judge.
Friday night at 7:30 will be a re-match of the past two Catholic League championship participants, Roman Catholic and La Salle. The contest will take place at the Ukrainian Nationals Turf Stadium field, 1550 Lower State Road, North Wales. Roman officials remind customers that they will be selling their annual breast cancer awareness shirts.
Other Catholic League games on Friday feature Archbishop Wood at St. Joseph’s Prep, Father Judge at Archbishop Ryan, Lansdale Catholic at Bonner-Prendergast, and Bishop McDevitt at Conwell-Egan.
Archbishop Wood senior Bob Hennessey, on whether or not losing to Roman after beating La Salle lessened the impact of the victory: “No, the loss did not detract anything. The win over La Salle was huge for us and meant a lot to us. We all knew going into the game that it was going to be a tough one. We came ready to play and found the back of the net early. We played with a lot of speed and all worked well together. Our back line played really good and held La Salle to limited chances. It’ll be exciting to see how things turn out for the rest of the season.”
Archbishop Wood senior Joe Trodden, same subject: “The loss definitely was a hard one to swallow for the team. It was a hard-fought game by both teams and we were unfortunate to come out on the losing end. However, I don’t think it took away anything from our win against La Salle or our confidence as a team. We are still confident in our ability as a team and we know we can still make a deep run come playoff time.”
Father Judge junior Tim Purcell, commenting about the Crusaders’ steady play of late: “We’re fixing the little things trying to get as ready as possible, preparing for a deep playoff run. Each week we’re finding new ways to get better, and are translating them to the field. We know where we are in the season and how important these games at the end are. We just need to continue playing as a unit and we’ll be heavy contenders in the playoffs.”
Father Judge senior Owen Ovecka, on the Crusaders’ 2-1 win over Archbishop Wood: “This game was huge. We knew they were a good team so we had to come out strong. We played as a team and played for each other. Especially going into the playoffs, this gives us tons of energy and we are looking forward to keeping it going.”
Father Judge junior Brendan McCarthy, who joined sophomore Aidan McShane as goal scorers against Wood: “Yeah, last night’s win was amazing. It was a great atmosphere under the lights at home. We were all hungry and motivated and we knew we needed a win and to get one against a team like Wood made it better. Our whole team worked so hard. The whole game we just defended well and worked the ball around to create chances and get a huge win going into Friday when we play Ryan.”
St. Joseph’s Prep senior goalie Aidan Hartey, on the Hawks’ 2-1 win over rival La Salle: “Wow. It was an amazing win for us. Our team is really playing well at this point. We did a great job of playing fast and physical. It’s a huge win as far as playoff seeding as we go into another huge one against Wood. It’s been a while since we beat them La Salle at their place, maybe 10 years or so.”
Roman Catholic junior goalie Kevin Tobin, on the Cahillites’ 1-0 victory over Archbishop Wood: “It was a dog fight from the beginning to the end. Not too many shots on frame but a lot of crosses where I had to come out and be big, and our defense played big. Wood is a very talented team. I feel that we will see them again this year.”
Roman Catholic coach Ray Destephanis, same subject: “I can’t deny it was a big win. You know sometimes you hear the buzzwords like ‘statement’ and ‘must win,’ but honestly, in the end, it’s just a win. We don’t buy into that hype. The only time we as a team look to other results is to see what impact it might have on us in the standings because of potential playoff seeding. In the Catholic League, it doesn’t matter how your opponent faired against common teams. If you’re not ready to play on match night, you’re going to have a very rough ride. Our league is tough like that.”
Roman Catholic junior Nick Lobiondo, describing his goal that led Roman past Wood, 1-0: “The second half had just started. We’re about 10 minutes in. I saw our caption, Jared Dillon, running down the left side of the field with the ball. He brought it to the corner and I knew he would be beat his man and get a cross off. I started making my run from the right side and he put the ball in the box. He crossed it in and after it went over a few players’ heads. I was right there to tap it in and take the lead. The goal wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my teammates.”
Roman Catholic senior Jared Dillon, same subject: “Wood is a super good team. We train and prepare for the team directly ahead of us and don’t look back to see who they beat or how. Maybe to review some film but every opponent is different and every match has its own flow to it so you have to play in the moment.”
Roman Catholic senior Mark Iannacone, same subject: “It was a big win for us to take first place and a great team effort all around. Defensively our goal was to not let them get chances and get the ball forward as much as possible. They were a really good team attacking, but I felt that we handled really well.”
Roman Catholic junior Kieran Donnelly, same subject: “Playing against Wood is always a tough matchup. We knew this would be no different, especially considering the big win they had over La Salle. We knew they would be playing with a lot of confidence. This demanded our best effort from the whole team and required us to be on our top game. Although it was a stellar win against a good team, we definitely do not want to get too excited over just one game. Our main focus now is to prepare for upcoming games with the possibility of seeing Wood again in the playoffs.”
Tag(s): Home Schools Philadelphia Catholic Soccer Boys Soccer Philadelphia Catholic League Arch. Carroll Boys Soccer Arch. Ryan Boys Soccer Arch. Wood Boys Soccer Bishop McDevitt Boys Soccer Bonner & Prendie Boys Soccer Cardinal O'Hara Boys Soccer Conwell-Egan Boys Soccer Father Judge Soccer La Salle Soccer Lansdale Cath. Boys Soccer Neumann/Goretti Boys Socce Roman Catholic Soccer Saint Joseph's Prep Soccer