By: Morgan Killian-Moseley
PHILADELPHIA – A City Soccer 6 matchup was also the first conference matchup of the season for the La Salle Explorers and the Saint Joseph’s Hawks, as the two teams battled at McCarthy Stadium on Saturday in the two teams’ first tilt in Atlantic 10 play. A hard-fought, at-times chippy battle netted both teams one point in the standings, as the match finished in a 1-1 draw.
La Salle had the first major scoring chance of the match in the 14th minute, as redshirt-junior forward Sean Yurgel drilled a shot that Hawks junior goalkeeper Lars Haavie made a diving stop on, and a shot from Aimar Leunda Etxebarria off the ensuing corner kick went wide.
St. Joe’s responded with a juicy chance in the 17th minute, as graduate forward Bart Kooistra fired a shot from around 14 yards out that La Salle sophomore goalkeeper Filip Sabatti got his hands on. The rebound came right back to Kooistra, who was able to slip past Sabatti and get another shot away, but La Salle’s defense had forced the Dutchman wide enough that his shot rang off the outside of the frame.
The two teams would clamp down defensively, with neither team getting another quality chance until Minute 41, when Sabatti kept out a shot from Phillip Wujewitsch. The Hawks couldn’t take advantage on the corner kick that followed, and the teams went to the locker room with nothing on the board.
St. Joe’s came out strong to start the second half, and they struck paydirt. Junior midfielder Blake Driehuis, the reigning A-10 Offensive Player of the Week, headed home a well-placed cross from fellow junior midfielder Truls Braendvang to give the Hawks the 1-0 lead. It was the sixth goal of the season for the Kiwi, 2nd-most in the A-10 behind Alec Hughes of UMass.
The Crimson and Gray would continue to attack. Kooistra had another chance in the 53rd minute but fired it wide; and Driehuis nearly made it a brace in the 57th but missed high.
The Blue and Gold responded well, raising their offensive intensity. The Hawks continued to rebuff them, and Kooistra had yet another chance to deliver and salt the match away in Minute 81 but was denied by Sabatti.
It took until the 84th minute for La Salle to get another strong scoring chance, but they made the most of it, as a well-placed ball in the 18-yard box led to a foul by Hawks senior defender Mikkel Andersen, awarding the Explorers a penalty kick. Israeli senior midfielder Omri Ezra stepped up and buried the PK for his second goal of the campaign to level the match at 1-all.
But St. Joe’s wasn’t finished yet. They quickly put the pressure back on and Sabatti was able to come up with a stop on Hawks graduate midfielder Alex Hood in Minute 87.
St. Joe’s would try and come up with a game-winner on a corner set piece seconds later, but the La Salle defense was able to clear it out, and the final minutes elapsed.
“Conference play is a whole different level than out of conference,” said La Salle senior forward and captain Justin Brunow after the match. “We knew if we wanted get at least one point we had to play collective soccer for 90 minutes. We [lost] our head for five minutes and we got scored on, but we were lucky enough that we played well enough as a team, kept our composure, and ended up getting a point out of it.”
“We were very comfortable in possession [in the 1st half],” said La Salle head coach Taylor Thames. “We moved the ball relatively quickly, we were accessing good space, and we weren’t rushing our chances.”
Thames also praised his team’s resilience in fighting back to get one point in the conference standings, though of course they wanted three.
“I thought we dominated the second half. I thought we deserved to win the game,” said St. Joe’s head coach Don D’Ambra. “It was a questionable PK, and that was [what determined] the outcome of the game. We’re just going to keep working hard and keep trying to get better.”
When asked about what has led to his hot start, Driehuis said, “I think it’s just being that typical striker, getting yourself in around the ball, seeing it at the right place and right time, and obviously having the service from the boys. It’s not just me putting in the goals, I have to have the passes there; so, having them be able to put in good crosses and get the ball in the right areas, and being able to get into them and have the shots go my way has been great.”
“I think he’s been working extremely hard,” D’Ambra said of Driehuis. “He’s been working on his game every year; he takes things seriously. I’m happy that he’s seeing the benefits of his hard work, and that he’s playing really well right now.”
The Hawks outshot the Explorers 9-8. St Joe’s also had more shots on goal, with five attempts on-target compared to La Salle’s three. Sabatti made four saves for the Blue and Gold, while Haavie made two for the Crimson and Gray. La Salle did win the corner kick battle, earning five to St. Joe’s four.
The Explorers had 11 fouls called on them compared to St. Joe’s 10; but the Hawks were hit harder in the disciplinary books, receiving three bookings to only one for La Salle. For St. Joe’s, Kooistra (27th minute), senior midfielder Fletcher Caponecchia (34th), and graduate mid-forward Matias Mancini (81st) were all assessed yellow cards, while sophomore defender Evan Watt (65th) received the only yellow for La Salle.
Following this game, La Salle dropped a 3-1 decision to Ryder on Tuesday. The lone goal for the Explorers came off the foot of freshman Yuval Nimrodi, this third of the season. St. Joe’s also struggled on the road, losing to Monmouth 1-0.
La Salle’s overall record now stands at 3-3-2. The Explorers will continue on the road and will travel to Kingston, RI to face Rhode Island on Saturday to continue A-10 play.
St. Joe’s now holds a record of 2-5-1. The Hawks will return home looking to get back-on-track against Dayton in another A-10 matchup. The game will be played on Sean Sweeney Field on Saturday at 1 p.m..