PHILADELPHIA — It took 80 minutes of regulation, two overtimes, three well-placed penalty kicks, and not one but two goalies, making Saturday night’s victory all the sweeter.
“It’s great. We’ve been working all year and it’s great to get the ‘W,'” an elated Hayden Grosso said.
Grosso and his La Salle teammates danced at midfield, celebrating their Philadelphia Catholic League Championship Game victory, a 2-1 win (3-1 in penalty kicks) over persistent Roman Catholic.
“The kids did a great job. They battled,” Explorers coach Thomas McCaffery said. “I thought we came out well and then we sunk into a little lull where Roman got some wind in their sails and did a great job. We had to battle and grind it out. You gotta be happy with the way the kids fought and got the job done.”
It was a 0-0 deadlock until Grosso poked one in for La Salle, with 22 minutes and 34 seconds left in the second half.
Roman, however, came back to tie it, when Kieran Donnelly drilled a penalty kick to make it a 1-1 draw with 17:10 to go.
There would be many more penalty kicks to come.
The two teams went back and forth in the two 15-minute overtimes, but neither gave ground.
“When it’s two good teams, both teams are gonna create chances,” McCaffery said. “Both goalies played really well, and they gave their teams a chance. In the end, you hate to see it go to PK’s, because it’s kind of a rough way to see it end, but we’re lucky to be on this end of it tonight. They practice hard at them. In the last three weeks of the season, we’ve been working hard on them. We scouted and saw how Roman played them against St. Joe’s. And the guys executed.”
Said Grosso: “They’re very stressful, but I knew from the beginning, we had a strong keeper going in. He’s very good at stopping PK’s and we did the job finishing and we won.”
Jack Heineman played in net during regulation and the two overtimes, keeping it a 1-1 tie. And then the Explorers turned to their secret weapon for the PK’s.
“That is a tremendous effort by Gavin,” McCaffery said. “We figured it out pretty early on that with his size and his length, he presents something different than Jack does for PK’s. What we really noticed in the last two weeks is that Gavin has a knack for them. He knows which way to go, he has a good read on players, and he got the job done.”
Sean Jennings was up first for La Salle in penalty kicks, and he knocked one into the lower left corner, beating Roman keeper Kevin Tobin.
Roman hit the right post on its ensuing attempt, and La Salle went up 2-0 when James Crawford connected, upper left. Sebastian Gonzalez then cut it to 2-1 when he went upper left for Roman.
La Salle’s next try sailed over the crossbar but then a stop on Roman’s third attempt kept it 2-1.
Grosso came through again.
“I always go right,” he said.
His shot was true, boosting the margin to 3-1. Roman’s fourth try banged off the crossbar, and La Salle rushed the net in celebration.
“I thought this year, we were gonna struggle a little bit,” McCaffery said. “With the fact that Roman was so senior-heavy and very good. That St. Joe’s was so senior-heavy. And the guys that Judge had. We were so young that I didn’t know what to expect in August. But the guys figured it out. It’s a tremendous testament to them buying into the system and what was asked of them.”