Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert, Ethan Puth, Zack Beavers, Krystal Williams, Lennie Malmgren & Rachel Macauley
By: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – After one week among familiar opponents, four teams remain flawless. Four teams still await a victory. Four others stand directly in between.
In other words, all is pretty normal in the world of Philadelphia Catholic League boys’ soccer.
Over the next few weeks, the standings will take on a constantly changing new look. While finishing as high as possible is certainly a desirable goal, entering the postseason healthy and firing on all cylinders is what coaches most desire.
Until someone dethrones them, La Salle sits atop of the PÇL as the proverbial team to beat. The Explorers have won two straight titles, four of the last five, and six of the past 10. Their latest crown, a 3-2 nail-biter over Father Judge, is regarded as a bona fide classic.
Last fall, La Salle went 9-1-1 during the regular season, its lone defeat a 3-0 stunner against upstart Lansdale Catholic. The Explorers seized a bit of revenge on Tuesday by a misleadingly dominant 5-0 final score. That followed a dramatic, 2-1 overtime victory at Archbishop Wood on a game-winning goal by junior CJ Massella four days previously.
“It was tough to break down Lansdale Catholic,” said La Salle coach Tom McCaffery. “They were strong defensively throughout the match and it took our guys being persistent to find the breakthrough. It was nice to see our guys stick with it and then keep pushing even after (senior) Seth (Michalak) got the first one.
“I think that desire and drive throughout the team will help us as we continue to improve through the PCL schedule.”
In addition to Michalak, La Salle received goals from senior Dom Lupinacci, sophomore Tom Regan (one assist), sophomore Joey Kmetz, and the aforementioned Massella.
After having their PCL championship appearance streak snapped at six by virtue of a 2-1, overtime loss to La Salle in the 2021 semifinals, Roman Catholic blanked both Archbishop Carroll, 4-0, and Conwell-Egan, 2-0.
A balance of upperclassmen and underclassmen proved too much for Carroll. Freshman Chris Swanson scored twice, the first via a breakaway for his first high school tally with assists earned by senior Peter Arreguin and junior Evan Hubert. Freshman Jonathan Levine assisted on Swanson’s second goal and then added another on freshman Owen Adamow’s first varsity goal. Senior Jacob Arias’ highlight pass set up junior captain Petey Crespo to end the scoring.
In the win at Conwell-Egan, Swanson and senior Nick Lachawiec scored one apiece. Crespo and senior Ben Macleod were credited with assists. Senior goalie Sean Brennan made five stops to clinch the shutout.
“It was our second PCL match, first full day of school, afternoon game on the road, long bus trip, stomach viruses, you name it,” said Roman Catholic coach Ray DeStephanis. “With that said, I’ll gladly take the win and move on. We played relatively well with a complete and solid effort in the first half.
“But credit to Conwell-Egan. They kept coming at us on the back end. It was a good early season test of perseverance, especially defending the lead against an organized side down the stretch.”
St. Joseph’s Prep remained un-scored upon after a 5-0 win at Bonner-Prendergast and a 4-0 victory over Archbishop Carroll. One third of the Hawks’ collective nine-goal offense came courtesy of freshmen Griffin Coyle, John Diamond, and Patrick O’Neill.
“We graduated nine starters from the 2021 squad, so in 2022, this is a new varsity team,” said Prep coach Joe Coyle. “For some games this season, we are starting four freshmen and nine underclassmen total. So we are very young, but very talented. We have quality in every grade and at every position.
“It is just a matter of increasing the pace of the development. Our goal is to win now, not just in a year or two. We owe that to the seniors.”
Lansdale Catholic, which last year turned a seventh-place finish into a PCL jaunt all the way to the league semifinals highlighted by a shocking 3-2 overtime win over Archbishop Wood in the quarters, opened with a 2-1 comeback win at Devon Prep.
Trailing 1-0, sophomore Pat Cole took a pass from junior Matt Schaefer and tied the game in the 43rd minute. About 30 minutes later, Schaefer turned a feed from junior Tommy Ellis into a game-winner. Earlier in the first half, junior goalie Danny Shelak had prevented a two-goal deficit by thwarting a penalty shot.
“It was another classic between Lansdale Catholic and Devon Prep,” said LC coach Casey Farrell. “Every single year these past few seasons, Devon Prep plays us insanely tight and does not let up. They were energetic, organized, determined, and well coached.
“But ultimately we settled down, maintained control of the game, and kept plugging away until the ball found the back of the net. After our first goal, we knew we just had to stick to what we do best and the second goal would come. We dominated possession and played at our pace.”
Casey was quite impressed with the Tide.
“Tons of credit to Devon Prep,” said Farrell. “They only had two subs, and their only goalkeeper got injured very early on in the first half and had to be replaced by a field player. And they still made us earn everything that day.”
Archbishop Ryan answered a scoreless tie at Conwell-Egan with a decisive victory at Devon Prep. Raiders coach Ryan Haney was pleased with the Raiders’ all-around effort.
“Offensively we were much better than our previous outing,” said Haney, referring to key contributions from senior Timmy Cliggett, senior Roy Hevener, sophomore Peyton Barton, and junior Frank Monaco. “Our defense is really clicking. We're looking forward to the test we have on Saturday.”
Archbishop Wood rebounded from a mega-tough, 2-1 overtime loss to defending champ La Salle by shutting out Cardinal O’Hara, 5-0, as junior goalie Julian Naumenko earned a shutout.
“We came out sluggish,” said Wood coach Hugh Kelly. “O’Hara played very well in the first half. In the second half, we settled down and we were able to capitalize on a few shots.”
Conwell-Egan might be 0-1-1, but the Eagles served notice that they are far from a pushover. After taking Archbishop Ryan to a two-overtime scoreless tie, the Eagles dropped a 2-0 decision to visiting Roman Catholic.
“I was definitely hoping for the upset win to start off the season,” said Conwell-Egan senior Dillon Farrell. “It was a hard fought 100 minutes of soccer. The tie certainly kept us hungry going into the game against Roman, but we came out slow.
“We plan on building off every game good or bad, and making this season one for us to remember.”
Behind balanced scoring from much of the roster, Father Judge notched a pair of shutouts over Cardinal O’Hara and Bonner-Prendergast.
Next up for the Crusaders are three games on their home turf.
Instead of playing on the traditional Friday, the league’s 12 teams will feature a PCL Showcase on Saturday at two locations. At Father Judge, a 10 AM contest between the host Crusaders and Archbishop Ryan will be followed by a noon encounter between Bonner-Prendergast and Conwell-Egan, and then a 2 PM battle between Roman Catholic and St. Joseph’s Prep.
Simultaneously at Cardinal O’Hara, Archbishop Carroll will face LaSalle at noon; Archbishop Wood versus Lansdale Catholic follows at 2 PM; Devon Prep and the host Lions finish the afternoon at 4 PM. Tickets for all games are $5.00.
“This is a great way to showcase our players and teams to the five-county region,” said Father Judge coach John Dunlop. “It is a great event to see the other team players at one site. It is also a great atmosphere for someone who enjoys the game of soccer.”
(Contact John Knebels at email@example.com or on Twitter @johnknebels for any team updates or corrections.)
Tag(s): Home Schools Philadelphia Catholic Soccer Boys Soccer Philadelphia Catholic League Arch. Carroll Boys Soccer Arch. Ryan Boys Soccer Arch. Wood Boys Soccer Bonner & Prendie Boys Soccer Cardinal O'Hara Boys Soccer Conwell-Egan Boys Soccer Father Judge Soccer La Salle Soccer Lansdale Cath. Boys Soccer Neumann/Goretti Boys Socce Roman Catholic Soccer Saint Joseph's Prep Soccer Devon Prep