PHILADELPHIA >> Make it four-for-four in District 12 title games for the Lansdale Catholic boys soccer seniors.
The Crusaders got the four-peat Saturday morning at the South Philly Super Site, topping a very game and resilient Philadelphia Charter Academy School 2-0 in the Class AA final behind a brace from senior Noah Saba. Goalkeeper Jack Kane won his fourth straight district title in net, and posted a shutout for the third straight year.
It’s a mark of consistency for the program, with the crop of seniors having been right in the middle of it.
LC hosts New Hope-Solebury at 3 p.m. Wednesday in a District 1/12 regional semifinal with the winner qualifying for the PIAA tournament. So while Saturday’s game looked to have little meaning in the long term, it was of great importance to the Crusaders.
“It feels amazing,” Saba said. “Coming to LC, I would have never thought or dreamt that we could have this kind of success. It just kind of proved that again that we have great coaches and a great work ethic at LC.”
The one thing that has most plagued the Crusaders this fall has been an inability to finish goals. It cost them in Catholic League games and in some non-league contests. For the first half Saturday, that same problem came back to hover over LC.
Despite controlling the run of play and putting the ball in the box over and over, the Crusaders couldn’t put anything away. The PACS keeper made some nice saves but LC also cost itself by heading balls over, not getting a foot to a ball in the box and shooting wide of target.
“We’ve had so many opportunities against good opponents like them and not been able to finish,” LC coach Joe Wilson said. “Usually what happens is we make a mistake and end up going down 1-0 then it’s a struggle. The guys know what the history has been and just stayed composed and kept working until we got what we thought we could do.”
Kane only made three saves and credited his defenders for making his day relatively easy.
“My freshman and sophomore years we had a great team with a lot of great leaders,” Kane said. “I learned a lot from them and I’m glad I was able to implement some of that leadership the past couple years. The coaching has helped, it pulls the team together. This year and last year, we really came together.”
Saba missed the squad’s last game, a 1-0 loss in overtime to Roman Catholic in the PCL quarterfinals but liked the fight and resolve his teammates showed in that effort. Playing mostly AAA and AAAA opponents all season, it was tough for the Crusaders to find their identity during the regular season.
But toward the end, they modeled themselves as a hard-working and resilient group. Despite not having a goal after 40 minutes, there was a sense of calm in the LC players as they went out to start the second half.
“We knew it was going to come, we had to stay patient,” Saba said. “They were a good team and we weren’t expecting them to come out as hard as they did. We had a slow first half but we came out in the second half a lot harder. We wanted to possess more and not hit as many long balls. We had a lot of success in the second half passing through them.”
Saba’s first goal came a shade less than three minutes into the second half. Chris Edling won the ball on a short clear by the PACS keeper and was able to thread a ball through to Saba, who got in close and slid a shot under the keeper to put LC on the board.
“The (defender) was on my back and I felt it, then I saw the goalie coming out and he was in the air a little bit, so I just put it underneath him,” Saba said. “He was getting everything high, he was good, he was athletic so I wanted to keep it low.”
Saba put the game away with 17:07 left on a second-chance opportunity. Senior Josh Yurastis had a great shot off the right side that curled with power, so the keeper could only palm it away and it went right to Saba inside the six-yard box.
“I started to breathe a little,” Wilson said. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It helped me and you could feel it on the field, we started playing a possession game and with the pressure off, our technical touches were a lot cleaner.
“It was the fourth year in a row and there was a lot of pressure to get that district title.”
Wilson said his team was very focused on Saturday and it mostly due to the seniors. The seniors themselves wanted to go four-in-a-row and the other guys on the team wanted to get it done for them.
Firstly, it gave them a game instead of waiting more than a week and a half to play and second, its core players got to do something they had wanted all year long.
“We got the those first three wins with all those guys above us and we wanted to continue the legacy,” Kane said. “We wanted to make it a school record with the four straight championships. We have to keep the intensity high. It’s late in the season, teams start to fall off but we have to keep that intensity up and come into next week on fire.”