La Salle junior Chris Metzler and his teammates were preparing to play Roman Catholic in a key Catholic League soccer matchup Friday, Sept. 29 at Lighthouse Field. Both squads entered undefeated at 6-0.
“Since Roman is one of the top teams, we knew that if we did not come out energetic and play our best for the entire game, they would be able to capitalize on their chances,” said Metzler. “There isn’t much room for error when playing against a quality team like Roman.”
Despite a spirited effort by the Cahillites, La Salle prevailed, 3-0, behind Metzler’s two goals and the shutout goaltending by senior Brett Werner. The victory, coupled with a 7-0 shellacking of Bishop McDevitt on Tuesday, Oct. 3, served notice that for LaSalle, nothing less than a successful defense of its Catholic League title will suffice as a successful campaign.
Although the Explorers’ victory over Roman was impressive because of their opponents’ talent level, the win over McDevitt was equally notable because the Explorers did not rest on their laurels.
They also were able to provide significant playing time to younger players who were filling in for some ailing starters.
“Some of the reserve guys had to play major minutes and did a really nice job to get us the three points,” said La Salle coach Tom McCaffery. “It was a solid team performance. Everyone is feeling good after the way the team performed Friday night and that mentality showed (Tuesday) in how people stepped up and played well to keep the train rolling.”
Some Explorers admitted that the Roman game had been on their minds from the start of the season.
“We are trying to take it one game at a time this year and not overlook any opponents, but Roman is definitely a game we had circled on the calendar,” said senior Bobby Bohner. “Being that it was a rematch of the (Catholic League championship) finals last year, we knew that we were going to get their best effort.
“I’m sure we will see Roman down the road, so it is important to get right back to work and keep getting better as a unit.”
Senior Joe Brigidi concurred.
“Every game, the targets on our backs keep getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “We all want the hubcap (championship plaque) a second year, so we have been working on aspects of our game that may have been lacking in all of our previous matches.”
McCaffery observed his players as confident, but not cocky, in their overall preparation before the marquee contest.
“The guys were amped up to take first place and to stay undefeated in the league,” said McCaffery. “They knew that Roman was very good defensively with zero goals conceded until Friday night. I think our attacking players knew how much of a challenge it would be to score goals and they wanted to show how good we can be in the attack.
“That carried through in their execution of the game plan in every phase of the game.
As the game went on and we were playing well, it fed into their excitement level and belief that they could win the match.”
Roman Catholic coach Ray DeStephanis, whose team starts four seniors and only has five on its roster, acknowledged Roman’s youth but didn’t dwell on it.
“Given that we just had senior night and we had the shortest ceremony of my tenure, I’d say we are relatively young,” he said. “I guess you can say every match there’s potential to learn and gain valuable experience.
“All in all, we are a tad young, but competitive. Playing all these nip-and-tuck matches will serve to make us stronger and more composed down the stretch.”
The Cahillites impressed the more-seasoned Explorers.
“The second goal (midway through the second half) gave us some more breathing room,” said Bohner. “It did not affect Roman too much. They kept coming full speed.”
Good teams will do that.
John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.
Catholic League Boys’ Soccer Standings
(Through Oct. 5. Teams in bold have clinched a playoff spot)
La Salle: 8-0
Roman Catholic: 7-1
Archbishop Wood: 7-1
Archbishop Ryan: 5-2-1
Father Judge: 4-3-1
St. Joseph’s Prep: 3-2-3
Cardinal O’Hara: 2-4-2
Lansdale Catholic: 2-5-1
Archbishop Carroll: 2-6
Bishop McDevitt: 1-7