Two games in, and Catholic League soccer is once again worth the price of admission.
Although La Salle has the look of a team that could dominate the rest of the field, there remains tremendous talent throughout the league.
“La Salle is as good as a team could be,” said Father Judge coach John Dunlop. “They’re a special team. It will take a great effort to beat them.”
In the meantime, defense has been the topic of conversation among CL soccer loyalists. Heading into today’s action, 11 league games have produced 11 shutouts. That is not a misprint.
“Really? Wow,” said La Salle senior goalie Brett Werner. “I haven’t gotten around to looking at the standings, and don’t plan to until later in the season, but I’ve never heard of something like that.
“To me, it just proves what I originally thought coming into the season. Everyone is a competitor in the Catholic League. You can lose to any opponent if you don’t show up ready to play. And honestly, it just shows how strong the teams are this year.”
Werner’s Explorers used a goal by junior Christ Metzler to defeat private school rival St. Joseph’s Prep, 1-0. La Salle then overwhelmed perennial toughie Archbishop Ryan, 5-0, on Tuesday afternoon.
“Jake Mittman dribbled from around midfield to the 18 and passed to Christian Calabretta in the corner,” said Metzler, explaining his game winner versus the Prep. “Calabretta beat his man and played it across the box, and I was there to finish it with my foot. It was a great team play and an exciting way to start our league play.”
Against Ryan, senior Jake Mittman and junior Cole Hammel both scored twice before senior Christian Calabretta finished the scoring.
Werner was impressed with the Prep’s effort in the opener.
“It was definitely the right way to start a season, especially against a longtime rival like Prep who has always given their best efforts when we played them,” said Werner. “We had 10 or so corner kicks and five throw-ins within their 18 yard line, but we just couldn’t finish our chances. They played very well defensively, and their keeper came up big when they needed him to.”
Roman Catholic took the direct opposite approach in its two wins, pulling away by a wide margin and then eking out a victory. The Cahillites overwhelmed Conwell-Egan, 7-0, and then edged Lansdale Catholic, 1-0.
The latter triumph was scoreless before senior Jared Fielding deflated the Crusaders with a game winner off a deflection five minutes before the final horn.
“The team was very happy and ecstatic,” said Fielding, “and we expected a hard battle up at Lansdale as it always is.”
After the victory over Conwell-Egan, Roman coach Ray DeStephanis was relieved.
“It was a game that we needed to come out and win to be very honest about it,” he said. “We had a terrible effort in a non-league match against William Tennent. We really needed to show that we are a better team than that, especially opening up the PCL season against an always tough Conwell-Egan.”
At Father Judge, a team that lost 15 seniors and returns only one starter opened with a 2-0 win over Cardinal O’Hara and then fell to Archbishop Wood, 1-0.
The Crusaders significantly rely on senior captain Marcelo Ibarra, who has scored five goals in five games.
“We’re trying to fill in the gaps as best as we can,” said Ibarra. “We’re a young team, and that’ll be a nuisance when we play the stronger teams later on. The team is taking the season game by game, trying to improve to become a stronger and more dangerous team, because we’re lacking experience.
“We’re trying to build the team from the bottom up, and seeing what players best fit our system. As each game goes on the kids on the team are becoming more confident, and by the time the Roman, La Salle, and Ryan games come, we’ll be ready.”
Archbishop Wood upended Bishop McDevitt, 3-0, and then Father Judge, 1-0. Vikings senior Jake Nubbs summarized the Vikings’ quick beginning.
“As a team it’s all about working together and staying positive,” said Nubbs. “We have a talented group of guys who play hard and play for each other. Every game or practice we come to play. Nothing is given to anyone. We have great talent, and our energy is very high.”
Bonner-Prendergast toppled Lansdale Catholic, 3-0, and then Conwell-Egan, 1-0, on Kaito Kitazawa’s clincher in a double-overtime thriller, cementing the work of senior goalie Tony Harper.
“What has been leading our team so far is leadership from the upperclassmen and the returning players from last year,” said senior Matt Maselli. “Also, the depth from our goalkeeper all the way up through our offense allows us to play quickly and aggressively.”
Senior Kevin Glatts agreed.
“The key has really been working together as a team and having good communication and playing to each other’s strengths,” said Glatts.
John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com.