Magical post-season run for Devon Prep falls one game short

Matt Bevilacqua’s senior leadership for the Devon Prep soccer team raised to new heights during the Tide’s magical post-season run that ended one game shy of a trip to the PIAA Class A state tournament.

Bevilacqua, who entered the district tournament as the team’s leading scorer, approached coach Tim McNally about moving to goalie after starting keeper James Loftus was sidelined in the team’s 2-1 victory over Calvary Baptist in the opening round of the district tournament.

Now serving as the last line of defense instead of the main offensive weapon, the Tide defeated Plumstead Christian in the semi-finals before falling to top-seeded New Hope Solebury in an emotionally charged game.

“Throughout the year I had played goalie in practice before games,” Bevilacqua said following Devon Prep’s loss in the district final. “I told coach I could play if needed. I really thought he was going to go with Andrew (Betts) but after watching me in practice he told me I would be starting and if needed he would replace me and put me back on the field.”

“I was impressed that he stepped up,” McNally said prior to the district championship game on November 4. “Once I saw he could play I agreed and our other kids did a great job of stepping up on the field.”

“Matt stepping up was big,” said senior Tanner Daggett. “He showed that soccer is a team game. He was our leading scorer but he showed his leadership going back into goalie when we needed him.”

Forced to make some adjustments, McNally opened the championship match in a 5-3-2 format to protect his keeper. For the first 15 minutes, the Tide was able to contain an explosive New Hope team that entered the tournament as the top seed.

With 26:16 remaining in the first half, Devon Prep took advantage of a hand ball call against New Hope as junior Daniel Shannon scored on a set piece from just outside the box to give the 7th seeded Tide a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately that lead would be short lived as New Hope netted the equalizer less than one minute later.

With the score knotted at halftime, McNally decided to change formations and go for the win. New Hope took advantage of the formation change netting three goals in the first 16 minutes to take control and dash Devon Prep’s dream of advancing to the state tournament.

“I decided to make a formation change and it did not work,” McNally said after the game. “The boys did a great job and it was a memorable year. It’s a shame it to had end.”

With their season seeing plenty of ebb and flow, the Tide bonded together with their watershed moment coming in the third game of the year against the same New Hope team when they fell 1-0.

“New Hope is a great team and we knew if we could hang with them we could hang with anyone,” said Daggett.

Despite the loss, the Tide showed its character each time it was tested with the senior class paving the way. With its playoff hopes on the line, Devon Prep was forced to close the season with five games in six days.

“The seniors were huge showing us the importance of having team-first mentality,” said sophomore Tyler Wright. “They showed us how to stick together through the ups and downs that rubbed off on the rest of the team.”

During that stretch, the Tide rolled to four wins that helped them secure the final playoff position.

“I had a lot of playoff experience,” said Bevilacqua, referring to his time on the Devon Prep baseball team. “I told them anything could happen as long as we come together and play for each other.”



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