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Pieces fall in place for Lansdale Catholic in playoff run

Every so often, things just seem to fall in line for a team.

This fall, the Lansdale Catholic soccer team had things come together at the right time. All season, the Crusaders played well against bigger schools in the Philadelphia Catholic League and in non-league games, but the results weren’t always there.

It was often a case of close but not enough. Then the postseason started, and everything clicked.

LC’s run came to an end Tuesday night against defending state champion Lewisburg in a PIAA Class AA semifinal at Hamburg.

“This team all year long had been off by a step,” departing LC coach Joe Wilson said. “We’ve played tough opponents and dropped really close games, our worst loss was a 2-0 game. We knew that as we got closer to the end, we’d be getting healthier.”

Prior to the start of the season, senior striker Noah Saba was talking with his older brother Jack, a former LC player.

Jake Saba told his little brother this was going to be the year the Crusaders did something special. Noah was a little bit skeptical. Saba missed parts of the season battling various injuries and didn’t think his brother’s predictive talk was going to come through.

But Saba got healthy right in time for the playoffs and found a new gear to go out on. The striker netted nine goals in his last six games and assisted the lone LC goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss.

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Lansdale Catholic’s Chris Edling beats Lewisburg’s Harrison Gronlund on a head ball during their PIAA Class AA semifinal on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

“It was like my fifth injury over the last year, it’s been draining mentally, I’ve been going to physical therapy all the time,” Saba said. “I thought to myself when I came back that this was my last chance at high school soccer so I might as well give it my all. My teammates played great, they played me great balls all year. I was fortunate to have Jack (Kane) as our goalie and Josh (Yurastis) out there with me.”

Wilson, who started coaching at LC in 2009, knew prior to the season that he was going to hang it up at the end of the year, but held off telling his players until the end of the regular season.

“I’m really going to miss the kids,” Wilson said. “This group here had a lot of heart. It was a group where the timing was right.”

This group of seniors was a special one, winning four straight District 12 AA titles and making the state tournament all four years of their careers. Prior to this fall however, they hadn’t made it out of the first round of states.

An overtime loss to Roman Catholic in the PCL tournament was the starting point. Despite losing, the Crusaders pushed a very good side to the limit, got healthy and got on a roll.

“We proved everyone wrong, I think coming into states, nobody really expected anything from us,” Saba said. “LC is a great program. It’s small and a little overlooked in the Catholic League and the district. We’re four-time champions but hadn’t made it out of the first round. To gain on this would be great, I hope the younger kids coming up realize the opportunity they have and take advantage of it.”

When Wilson told the team he was stepping aside, the seniors made the decision that they were going to put everything they had into making a run. Saba said Wilson has been a great mentor and role model to him and knows his classmates feel the same.

“I’m sure he’s proud of the way we played and the way we acted all year,” Saba said. “It was a great experience overall. I wouldn’t trade this team for the world, I had a great time with all of them. It’s rough it’s over but looking back, I’m really satisfied with what we did.”

Top Photo: Lansdale Catholic’s Noah Saba  and New Hope-Solebury’s Derek Donohoe battle for possession during their District 1/12 Class AA semifinal on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

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