PHILADELPHIA >> La Salle senior defender Joseph Brigidi was looking across the field, trying to find who he was supposed to congratulate and celebrate with.
Not even five minutes in to Thursday night’s District 12-4A boys soccer final with Northeast, a corner kick by Brigidi had led to a La Salle goal. The ball had made a lot of noise going into the net and the left back figured someone had knocked it in.
As Northeast fished the ball out of the net, the official pointed to Brigidi and he was the one getting swarmed.
His quick goal, coupled with a dominant second half, led La Salle to its second trophy of the week as the Explorers topped the Vikings 5-1 to win their second straight district title.
“When they started to pick up their intensity, we knew we had to pick up ours,” Brigidi said. “When they got their goal (in the second half), it really woke us up and we got down the line more and put pressure on them.”
The senior fullback doesn’t score often, but he’s one of La Salle’s best set piece takers and provides good service, as his assist on the game’s second goal showed. However, Thursday night’s accomplishment of scoring directly off a corner, also known as an Olimpico, was a first for Brigidi.
“The keeper cheated out pretty much to the six so I thought, we run a goal-line play where we try to put the ball right on the keeper on the line so I gave it a go and it happened to go in,” Brigidi said. “I don’t really care about scoring much, but it did feel good.”
La Salle only led 1-0 at half, but had a handful of chances. The Explorers knew the Public league champions were a good side, having beaten them back in September, and were anxious to put together a robust performance heading into states.
Northeast, which also qualified for states, has a wealth of speed and creative players up top and senior right back Chris Marzullo said the Explorers’ defense had to stay tight and cut off channels. On top of that, La Salle couldn’t let Northeast seize any momentum playing on its home pitch with a good crowd behind it.
Brigidi sent a looping ball into the box early in the second half that found its way down to Christian Calabretta, who tapped it in to put La Salle up 2-0. Northeast, which came out of the half with a lot of energy, sliced the lead back down to one four minutes later when Alejandro Giraldo volleyed in a shot with 27:50 left.
“I told everyone a 2-0 game is nothing, it’s still like a 0-0 game and you can’t let up,” Marzullo said. “Once they scored, they were really back into it. We had to get another one in there, keep putting them in and bury them.”
Marzullo, who waited his turn to become a starter, has been a sparkplug for La Salle with his willingness to go forward and constant hustle. The senior, only a first-year starter, got La Salle back on the right track when he set up its third goal.
Receiving the ball on the right flank, Marzullo sent in a gorgeous long cross to the opposite side of the field where it found junior Chris Metzler. Metzler made a quick move to clear space, then neatly tucked his shot inside the far post to make it 3-1 with 13:29 left.
“It came out, and we’ve worked on that in practice, kicking the ball to the side, lateral and to the back post because he’s always going to be there,” Marzullo said. “Thankfully he was and I had a good ball, it was about time, and he put it in.”
The third goal really got the Explorers going. While the Philadelphia Catholic League champs had been solid all half, with Sean McCallum creating an early chance, they took off after restoring their two-goal lead. Senior Jacob Mittman was dragged down in the box with 7:29 left, allowing senior Gio Randazzo to bury the penalty kick.
La Salle’s reserves capped the scoring when Jake Crawford finished a solid header off Colin Doyle’s corner kick with 6:16 left. For the game, La Salle put 10 shots on goal and generated nine corner kicks, both good numbers for an offense that was rolling.
“I’ve never had this much fun in a game before and I think we all really had a good time playing,” Brigidi said. “We all really had a good time playing and whenever we’re having fun, we seem to play well. I think that was a big part of it.”
“It wasn’t like it was win or go home, but we still needed to win and put ourselves in a good spot for states,” Marzullo said. “We wanted to get a win, bury them and, not have an easy schedule because it’s still states, but help ourselves anyway we could.”
The Explorers were bounced in the first round of states last year and for the team’s seniors, it’s not an experience they want to repeat. Both Marzullo and Brigidi aren’t playing in college, so they’re eager to keep stretching out the season as long as they can.
Brigidi said the path only gets harder and La Salle needs to keep that pep it had Thursday to keep working hard in training and matches. Marzullo added that playing with composure has been crucial for La Salle so far this postseason and something they need to keep with them going forward.
“I keep telling the guys ‘two weeks,’” Marzullo said. “Two more weeks, one more trophy, we can do it. We’ve been playing for two months now, so two weeks is nothing. It’s four more games, so why not.”
LA SALLE 5, NORTHEAST 1
LA SALLE 1 4 – 5
NORTHEAST 0 1 – 1
Goals: L – Joseph Brigidi, Christian Calabretta (Brigidi), Chris Metzler (Chris Marzullo), Gio Randazzo (PK), Jake Crawford (Colin Boyle); N – Alejandro Giraldo. Shots: L – 10, N – 2. Saves: L – Brett Werner 1, N – Sebastian Gimeno 5. Corners: L – 9, N – 2.
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