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Lansdale Catholic surges in second half, tops Archbishop Carroll in PCL 1st round

Lansdale Catholic's Steve Esterle goes for a loose ball near Archbishop Carroll's Jim Rolley during their PCL first round game on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LANSDALE >> Steve Esterle had tried to ram the idea into his teammates’ heads during their pregame talk.

But old habits seldom fade and again, the Lansdale Catholic boys soccer team started a match slowly. At halftime, it was a familiar talk about finding energy and playing with more passion and desire, only this time, the Crusaders were trailing Archbishop Carroll.

The message got across at the break and the Crusaders exploded out of the break, turned the game around and emerged with a 3-2 win in the first round of the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ve been known to come out pretty slow in the first half, so the coaches told us to get our act together,” LC defender Sean Cole said. “We came out and really wanted it. I feel like we wanted it more in the second half and that’s what got us the result.”

Archbishop Carroll’s Nicholas Booth goes to head the ball as Lansdale Catholic goalie Joe Duffy defends during their PCL first round game on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LC scored twice in less than two minutes to start the second half and completely flipped the script after a first half largely dominated by the No. 9 seed Patriots. Carroll started knocking on the door of the No. 8 seed almost immediately but couldn’t turn any of the numerous balls into the box into actual shots.

Midway through the first half, LC conceded a foul on its endline and its lackluster showing to that point was about to be punished. Carroll midfielder Nicholas Booth served in the free kick, where Jim Rolley rose above everyone else for the header.

“From the first half, we had to elevate our play tremendously,” Esterle, a co-captain said. “I myself talked about it in the pregame talk and said we had to win every 50/50 ball. In the first half, we were afraid to possess the ball but by the second half we had gained our confidence and kept the ball.”

Cole and Esterle felt they were a bit lucky to escape the first half down just 1-0, and keeper Joe Duffy made a great stop on a free kick late in the half to keep it that way.

The Crusaders needed to show they were committed to the second half and Cole provided that example. Matt McDonald served a free kick off the left flank into the box, where Cole made a smart run and headed the ball into the net.

“We needed to set the tone for the second half,” Cole said. “We weren’t about to  let them trample all over us again. It was our half to win and we did so.”

Not long after the restart, forward Evan Senour got behind the Carroll back line and alone with keeper Jake Langley. Senour took a shot, which Langley body-blocked but the ball stayed free, taking a bounce behind the keeper and rolling across the goal line to put LC in front.

Cole said despite bringing in a new coaching staff and losing a number of major contributors from last season’s AA state semifinalist, the Crusaders set high goals for this fall. They got off to a slow start as a team, but had been playing much better the last few weeks, buoyed by a draw at PCL regular season champion La Salle.

“With everyone getting to know their position and getting to know each other, we’ve become better working as a team,” Cole said. “Instead of individual efforts, we’ve put forth a team effort, which got us a result our past few games. The tie against La Salle gave us a lot of momentum and a boost of pride going into these games.”

Lansdale Catholic’s Chris Edling dribbles upfield near Archbishop Carroll’s Nicholas Malloy during their game on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Carroll was the team on its heels for much of the second half, the same balls it was winning in the first 40 minutes now going to the Crusaders. While the Patriots managed a few chances, they were again struck back when LC scored a third goal in the 65th minute.

A short corner kick led to a serve into the box, which Carroll headed out right into the path of Kyle Kane. Kane didn’t hesitate and buried the ball from just inside the box for what would end up being the game-winner.

While the three goals came from underclassmen, it was undeniable the turnaround started with the team’s seniors like Duffy, Dan White and Dom Melchiorre.

“At halftime we talked about our seniors coming down the home stretch of their seasons and having the opportunity to continue in this tournament,” LC coach Bill James said. “Our younger guys kind of looked around, looked at the seniors and didn’t want that effort we had in the first half to be the end of our season.”

Carroll got a goal back with about 90 seconds remaining when Nicholas Frederick took advantage of some sloppy marking to tap-in a second-chance ball. Cole took blame for allowing the goal but said he felt it was a one-time mistake.

LC will continue play in Friday’s quarterfinal round against Roman Catholic 7:15 p.m. at Lighthouse Soccer Club Fields in Philadelphia.

One thing the Crusaders know they can’t do on Friday is start the match the same way they did on Tuesday. Regardless of how far LC advances in the PCL tournament, it has qualified for the District 12 AA championship and will move on to the District 1/12 regional following that.

“Look where we are now,” Esterle said. “Everything else in the past doesn’t matter.”

Goals: LC – Sean Cole, Evan Senour, Kyle Kane; AC – Jim Rolley, Nicholas Frederick. Shots: LC – 8, AC – 5. Saves: LC – Joe Duffy 3, AC – Jake Langley 4. Corners: LC – 0, AC – 3.

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