Archbishop Ryan’s boys’ soccer team is a mercurial bunch. One minute the Raiders are defeating defending champion Archbishop Wood in overtime, the next they are losing four of their next five.
Then out of nowhere, they stun perennial juggernaut Roman Catholic; two games later, they need a last-second goal against struggling Cardinal O’Hara to forge an overtime tie.
On Thursday night, Oct. 17 at James Ramp Playground, the visiting Raiders (6-5-1 during the regular season) faced Father Judge (9-3) in a Catholic League quarterfinal. Less than 48 hours earlier, they had edged O’Hara, 3-2, in a pre-quarterfinal contest. Now, as a seven-seed, they were taking on the two-seed Crusaders.
Against the odds, but consistent with their unpredictable nature, the Ryan stunned Judge, 1-0, and advanced to the semifinals that take place on Oct. 23. Their opponent will be determined after the other three quarterfinals conclude tonight, Oct. 18.
“This game was extremely important to us because we all really wanted to win, especially against Judge,” said Ryan senior center midfielder Nick Marchesano. “Also, as a senior, and as for the other seniors on the team, we want to go as far as possible and even win the Catholic League. We all give 100 percent and are working for the same goal – to win the whole thing.”
With about 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Ryan freshman Tim Cliggett netted the biggest goal of his life. The St. Christopher School graduate took a feed from junior standout Sidiki Fofana and immediately found the back of the cage. Freshman goalie Joey Phillips, who has played every minute of the season, and his defense made it stick.
“I got the ball on the outside and saw Sidiki making a run to the corner, and I saw an open space and made a run to that space,” said Cliggett. “Luckily, Sidiki found me and played me and I one-timed it into the bottom right corner. It was a great pass from Sidiki.
“It was important because we lost to Judge earlier in the year and we couldn’t lose to them a second time. We came out on fire tonight, and it was the first time we made semis in a while. Everyone on our team played amazingly.”
Marchesano said he and the team were “ecstatic” after they seized a one-goal lead, but they knew there was way too much time left to celebrate.
“We didn’t intend to go into a defensive mode, but Judge did start putting a lot of pressure on us, so we were forced to drop back,” said Marchesano. “We tried to stick to our game plan as best we could.”
Ryan’s community, he said, has helped the soccer team.
“There is always a lot hype leading to all big games at Ryan,” said Marchesano. “Our school always shows lots of support for our games, and that keeps all of us motivated to play harder.”
Fofana labeled the victory “one of the most special moments” he has experienced at Ryan.
“We came out very strong and had high pressure the whole first half,” said Fofana. “We worked as a team and went through every tackle hard.”
As for their next opponent, Marchesano isn’t concerned.
“It doesn’t really matter who we play next,” he said. “We know what we need to do to keep winning.”
Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.
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