Saves send LaSalle to PCL fi­nal

The Review - - Sports - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

BENSALEM » Brett Werner lives for this this time of the year.

The La Salle se­nior goal­keeper showed why as his sea­son came down to a penalty kick shootout with St. Joseph’s Prep in their Philadel­phia Catholic League boys soc­cer semi­fi­nal last Wed­nes­day night. Fresh off his first-team all-PCL se­lec­tion, Werner put the game in his hands and saved all three PKs the Hawks were able to put on tar­get.

As a re­sult, the Ex­plor­ers are in their sec­ond straight PCL ti­tle game, ad­vanc­ing 2-0 on PKs af­ter play­ing the Prep to a 2-2 draw at United Ger­man-Hun­gar­i­ans Soc­cer Club.

“You just have to sur­vive and ad­vance,” La Salle cen­ter back Cole Ham­mel said. “You have to just grind it out, get the win and move on. You can’t dwell on how you did it.”

La Salle, the top over­all seed in the PCL tour­na­ment, edged the No. 4Hawks 1-0 back in Septem­ber. While both teams have un­der­gone some changes since then, La Salle knew they were go­ing to get a fight. While the Prep might have been a year ahead of sched­ule in chal­leng­ing for a spot in the fi­nal, they be­lieved they were good enough to get there.

Af­ter La Salle took a 1-0 lead when Ham­mel headed in a Chris

Met­zler cor­ner kick in the eighth minute, the Hawks re­sponded with a flurry of en­ergy and pos­i­tive en­ergy. Evan Fi­lak scored twice in four min­utes, ty­ing the game in the 19th minute and then putting the Hawks up 2-1 in the 23rd to shift mo­men­tum in the game.

“What I said to our guys was when you play in games like this and come to venues like this, peo­ple talk and re­mem­ber games, what I asked them to do tonight was not re­mem­ber the game but re­mem­ber the sea­son,” Prep coach Joe Coyle said. “No­body ex­pected us to be here, we grad­u­ated seven starters and 14 se­niors, we’re only start­ing three se­niors, so the fu­ture is bright. We didn’t look at is as play­ing with house money, we looked at is as we de­served to be here.”

Both of Prep’s goals came off back­side runs that left Werner too ex­posed. Ham­mel said the back­line had to tighten up and was able to do so for the rest of the game.

While trail­ing, Werner said he and his team­mates had to find a way to up their en­ergy but also stay calm.

La Salle tied it up with less than nine min­utes re­main­ing in the first half. Cen­ter mid Gio Ran­dazzo played a di­ag­o­nal ball out that slith­ered through traf­fic and found Met­zler on the right side. The winger got him­self in space and buried the try past Prep keeper Ai­dan Hartey.

“We were try­ing to look for crosses and passes to the far post where we had guys crash­ing,” Met­zler said. “We wanted to get it to our guys out wide and let them do what they do.”

Hartey had a fan­tas­tic game in goal for the Prep, mak­ing seven saves and also com­ing down with al­most ev­ery ball La Salle put into the air. The keeper, who won the start­ing job dur­ing the sea­son, made a cou­ple clutch stops on Chris Cal­abretta in reg­u­la­tion and a huge save on a Ran­dazzo free kick in the first over­time.

“He prob­a­bly got us here tonight,” Coyle said. “As it got down to the end, I told our guys that if La Salle wins, you run out there too and sup­port him. He’s a tough kid, a re­ally, re­ally tough kid.”

Right af­ter that free kick by Ran­dazzo, La Salle saw its sea­son flash be­fore its eyes. The Prep’s Kane Ritchie got in be­hind the de­fense and with Werner pulled out, took a shot to­ward the gap­ing, open net. As the ball slid across the grass, La Salle se­nior Bobby Bohner sprinted af­ter it, slid­ing and kick the ball off the goal line to save the game and the year.

“I’m just happy Bob’s on our team, that’s just one of those spe­cial plays,” Ham­mel said. “It woke us up. That could have been the end of our sea­son, but now we have an­other chance.”

As the clock ex­pired on the end of 110 min­utes of soc­cer, Werner was ready to take over.

“I look for­ward to it,” Werner said. “Once the buzzer goes off, I pre­pare my­self men­tally to an­a­lyze the shooter and let my me­chan­ics take over.”

A tow­er­ing 6-foot-5 with light­ning- quick reaction times, Werner is seem­ingly built to deny spot kicks.

“Other than the fact that if I lay down, I can touch the posts, I feel like I’ve got­ten pretty good at read­ing how their body lan­guage af­fects the way they shoot,” Werner said. “That goes out to my goal­keeper trainer, Ge­orge (McDer­mott), he taught me a lot. I just put it all out on the field and things hap­pen.”

Werner palmed the first Prep PK over the bar, the sec­ond Hawks take was off- tar­get and hemade two div­ing stops on the fi­nal two tries, the last send­ing his team into the fi­nal.

Hartey made it as tough as he could, deny­ing Cal­abretta on La Salle’s third try, but cou­pled with Werner’s hero­ics, makes by Met­zler and Ham­mel were enough to send the Ex­plor­ers through.

“Hit it hard and low, on this field any­thing can hap­pen with a bounce,” Ham­mel said. “Re­ally, it was stay­ing com­posed in front of the net and we were able to do that twice.”

MORE THAN A GAME » Prior to the open­ing tap, both teams came to­gether in a mo­ment of si­lence and prayer in mem­ory of Prep ju­nior Sal DiNu­bile, a hockey player, who was shot and killed the night be­fore the game in Philadel­phia.

The Hawks were play­ing with heavy hearts on Wed­nes­day and while the two schools are bit­ter ath­letic ri­vals, the La Salle play­ers knew it didn’t mat­ter in that mo­ment.

“You feel for any­body who’s af­fected by that sit­u­a­tion,” Ham­mel said. “You’re all broth­ers in that mo­ment; you want to show your re­spect.”

“To­mor­row, we have to get up and go to class and Sal’s still go­ing to be gone and we’ll have to deal with that,” Coyle said. “It’s so cliché to say it, but it’s just a game. It’s as true for us as it is for any­body, we see it crys­tal clear.”

BOB RAINES — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

LaSalle’s Sean McCal­lum beats St. Joe’s Prep’s Ai­dan O’Neil­lon a header dur­ing their PCL semi­fi­nal Wed­nes­day.

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