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BOYS SOCCER: To the PCL Finalists – May the Four Be with You

By John Knebels - Videos: Donna Eckert, Peter Delpo, Mark Zimmaro, Lennie Malmgren & Patty Morgan, 10/26/21, 6:30PM EDT


Lansdale Catholic, Father Judge, Roman Catholic & La Salle advance to PCL Semifinals

Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert, Peter Delpo, Mark Zimmaro, Lennie Malmgren & Patty Morgan

By: John Knebels

NORTH WALES, PA – And then there were four.

In what has been a typically unpredictable and ultra-competitive Philadelphia Catholic League boys’ soccer season, Friday’s quarterfinal round included the top seed displaying dominance, two lower seeds posting victories, and one attempted comeback for the ages falling just short.

The noisiest triumph, the one that garnered the most shock, was Lansdale Catholic defeating two-seed Archbishop Wood, 3-2, in overtime. The seven-seed Crusaders, who during the regular season were the only team to defeat La Salle (3-0 on October 8) and befuddled 10-seed Archbishop Carroll in the first round, stunned a Vikings team to whom they lost, 4-1, on September 28.

“It’s obviously satisfying knowing that a deficit isn’t something we’re afraid of anymore,” said Lansdale Catholic coach Casey Farrell. “But more than satisfaction, I’m just so proud of the players. We’ve battled through so many injuries, big and small, all year long – way more than in years’ past.

“At least half my starting lineup yesterday was cramping for the entire second half and overtime. You could literally see them all limping around out on the field. But they all fought through it and kept fighting. It was amazing to watch.”

LC vs. Wood - Quarterfinal Highlights by Donna Eckert & Peter Delpo:

Trailing 1-0, the Crusaders (5-6 regular season) tied the Vikings (9-1-1) on a goal by sophomore Gianluca D’Alterio and seized a 2-1 lead late in the second half thanks to junior Kam Schmidt. Wood found the equalizer two minutes later, but with sophomore goaltender Danny Shelak standing tall under pressure, senior Will Kelly annoying the Vikings with his game-long ball-hawking skills, and senior centerbacks Alex Kulp and Shane Rodowicz anchoring the defense, the Crusaders (5-6 regular season) pushed the contest into sudden-death overtime.

Lansdale Catholic senior standout Eric Fernandez, the author of numerous clutch goals this fall, secured the most important tally of his young career when he boomed a free kick into the cage from about 30 yards away late in the first overtime period.

“It was pretty far out, so my only real choice was to try and get it over the wall with power,” said Fernandez. “I didn’t really believe it when the ball went in because I thought the keeper had it. But it was a very great feeling and all the fans we had at the game made it even better.”

At 5:30 PM Wednesday, in the first game of a PCL semifinal doubleheader at James J. Ramp Complex, Lansdale Catholic will face three-seed Father Judge in what ambitious tee shirt makers should promote as the Battle of the Crusaders.

After rushing to an eye-popping 4-0 lead, Judge withstood a furious rally by six-seed Archbishop Ryan and hung on for a 4-3 win.

“We had a good week of training,” said Father Judge coach John Dunlop. “We focused on the little things. We struggled the past few games not getting that second or third goal. Needless to say, maybe we focused on offense too much.”

Behind goals by sophomore Kevin Castro (assisted by junior Hughie Nungesser), sophomore Dane Pizzaro, sophomore Abou Cherif (assisted by Pizzaro), and junior Michael McCusker (assisted by Cherif), the Crusaders appeared heading for a rare easy playoff win.

Not so fast.

The Raiders (6-4-1) scored three consecutive goals and trailed 4-3. Undaunted, the Crusaders (8-2-1) and senior goalie Bobby Mulvenna, who had made several terrific saves in the first half, survived.

“Ryan did a nice job of making adjustments at half,” said Dunlop. “We seemed confused and struggled possessing the ball. We finally figured things out at the end to hold onto another crazy PCL game.”

Abou Cherif walks us through Judge's victory, talks about the atmosphere and walks us through his goal - PSD video by Mark Zimmaro:

Father Judge vs. Archbishop Ryan PCL Quarterfinal Game Highlights - PSD video by Mark Zimmaro:

The second game of the PCL doubleheader semifinals will feature top-seed La Salle against five-seed Roman Catholic. Both teams posted shutouts in their respective quarterfinals.

With a record of 9-1-1, the regular-season champion, La Salle advanced by eliminating eight-seed Conwell-Egan, 5-0.

“I think you have to match a team’s urgency in these situations,” said La Salle coach Tom McCaffery. “This time of year we talk about earning your next 80 minutes by how you perform each match.

“All the guys know that every PCL team has the ability to win a game, and if we don't take each match as our last this time of year, it most likely will be the last one.”

Senior Sean Jennings and junior Seth Michalak (one assist) scored two goals apiece while senior Tim Madden (one assist) added another. Sophomore goalie Ryan Kalup and senior netminder Mike Dukissis shared shutout honors.

“Conwell-Egan played with great energy,” said McCaffery. “They made it difficult to break them down.”

La Salle vs. Conwell-Egan - PCL Quarterfinal Highlights by Patty Morgan:

Back on October 8, the Explorers’ next opponent, Roman Catholic, endured a rare one-sided loss, a 5-2 decision against St. Joseph’s Prep. So naturally, the five-seed Cahillites (7-3-1) were seeded to meet the four-seed Hawks (8-2-1) in the quarterfinals.

Instead of being intimidated, the Cahillites considered the odds and were actually kinda relieved.

“Honestly, that was the best first-round pairing for us,” said Roman Catholic coach Ray DeStephanis. “It’s very hard to beat a quality team in this league, much harder, obviously, to do it twice in two weeks’ time.

“The night after our regular-season loss to the Prep, we walked off that field a different team – a team that understood a lopsided result doesn’t necessarily correlate to the effort put forth in the loss. We wanted to see them in the playoffs. We got what we wanted, period.”

With 16 minutes left in regulation, senior Tim Kane took a feed from senior Joey Lodise and found the twine to break a scoreless deadlock. With three minutes remaining, senior Manny Garcia-Barrios doubled the advantage.

Supported by a tenacious defense and his own key stops, junior goalie Donato Incollingo inked a shutout.

“There was no one particular standout,” said DeStephanis. “It started in the back with Donato making a couple huge saves, the back line in front of him aggressively challenging, a hardworking transitional midfield, and very determine forwards. It was as complete a team victory as you’re going to get.”

Roman Catholic vs. St. Joseph's Prep - PSD Quarterfinal Game Highlights by Lennie Malmgren:

(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)