LOWER PAXTON >> For the second straight season, the Lansdale Catholic boys soccer team’s season came to an end with a loss to Lancaster Mennonite in its first round of the PIAA Class 2A tournament.
It didn’t really matter the team — that it was the end was the hard part of Crusaders senior Matt McDonald.
“Having your senior year come to an end and any team that you play is just tough,” McDonald said. “You play four years in a program and then just to see it all go away, it was just hard for it to (end), how it happened. We wanted this game because we did lose to them last year but we came ready to play, it just didn’t go our way.”
Lansdale Catholic tried to lock down the District 3 champs and find just enough offense to avenge last year’s 5-1 loss. But the Blazers broke through late in the first half then scored twice after halftime to pull away and best the Crusaders 3-0 Tuesday night at Central Dauphin Middle School’s Landis Field.
“Our style of play coming into the game was obviously a little bit defensive,” LC coach Bill James said. “We had a few very dangerous players that are usually in our attack in the back third of our defense. We wanted to kind of wear them down, maybe get two or three opportunities and know that we weren’t going to get a bundle of chances and try to get that one or two.
“We didn’t think we were going to win a three or four-goal game. We we’re looking to win a 1-0 game. Unfortunately it didn’t unfold like that.”
Ben Lefever gave Lancaster Mennonite the lead with his goal with 6:19 left in the first half. Tyler Wagner doubled the margin at 18:53 in the second half with a long-distance effort that slipped through LC keeper Kellan Ward. Cameron Hoober tacked on the third tally in the 74th minute.
“We had a nice game plan set up on how we wanted to attack and get through the game. I think they wore us down with a lot of substitutions,” James said. “They were able to bring different swarms of players, the energy remained high and we started to wear off just a little bit. They punished their few chances that they had on us.”
The win advances the Blazers to the state quarterfinals for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Lancaster Mennonite faces District 4 runner-up Midd West, which topped District 2 champ Wyoming Seminary 3-0.
Lansdale Catholic, which earned its sixth state appearance in finishing second to New Hope-Solebury in the District 1/12 regional, ends the year at 9-12-1. The Crusaders were looking for their first PIAA win since 2016 when they reached the 2A semis.
“We’re hoping that they can continue in the last couple years, how we’ve gotten to where we are,” McDonald said. “And I’m hoping that next year they can take it one step further and get to the next round and keep going from there.”
McDonald generated the Crusaders’ best goal-scoring opportunities on the night. In the third minute of the first half, the senior put a low shot on goal that forced a diving save from Blazers goalkeeper Gabe Willig.
With LC down 2-0 in the second half, McDonald unleashed a knuckling shot from 30 yards out in the 66th minute that seemed poised to find the goal’s top left corner, but Willig reached up to deny him again.
“It looked good to me but he made a great save on it,” McDonald said.
In the 70th minute, McDonald got a free header in front of the net but sent it high.
“Giving up the second one hurt a little bit but the guys didn’t stop, they really kept trying,” James said. “We can’t complain because we had our few chances as well and they put away their few and we had a few that we didn’t put away. Today, I think, the better team won.”
Lefever made it 1-0 Lancaster Mennonite after a throw-in, the senior midfielder working to get enough space in the middle of the box to rip a right-footed shot past Ward inside the left post.
“I think we were worried maybe about giving up a foul in the top of the 18,” James said. “Just had to get back behind the ball and the guy slotted a nice shot near-post.”
Wagner’s goal putting the Blazers up 2-0 in the second half was bit of bad luck for LC. The long-range effort towards the left post squeezed past the diving Ward and trickled over the goal line.
“It was a tough one for our players,” James said. “We stood behind it. We didn’t put our heads down. We kept playing the rest of the game. It was a tough one to give up, but things like that happen and you just got to keep playing. I think our guys did a good job of that.”
Lancaster Mennonite made it a three-goal lead with 6:45 remaining when Paul Peachey’s low cross into the box was met by Hoober in front, who blasted the ball into the net.
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