As the second half game clock wound below 10 minutes, on Saturday, No. 3 Archbishop Curley appeared as if it might finish an impressive performance without a goal and suffer a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Mount St. Joseph. The Friars, however, stunned the Gaels with a late goal and then netted a Golden Goal, with just 53 seconds to play in the first overtime, to knock off St. Joe, 2-1, on homecoming day in East Baltimore.
Junior Ben Stitz scored the game-winner as he buried a rebound off of a free kick shot by Alejandro Arbelaez.
It was a win the Friars felt they had to have.
“It’s a great feeling. It gave the fans an exciting game. It was really cool that the alumni came back to support and I’m glad that we got the win,” said Ben Stitz, son of Curley coach Barry Stitz. “We’re looking to get the one or two seeds, so if we were going to do that, we had to win today. It’s a really big win.”
Backed by a large homecoming crowd, Curley (13-3-2, 9-2-1) had the better of the action for much of the first half, as the Friars did everything but put a ball in the net. With 11:40 to play in the half, however, St. Joe junior Jake Mazzei created his team’s first excellent scoring opportunity when he stole a pass near midfield, dribbled into open space on the right side and whipped a low hard shot, far post, which rolled just wide.
Nearly three minutes later, Mazzei was at it again, flying into the box to meet a line drive cross, from wide left, by Joshua Robbins and finishing with a diving header to give the Gaels (10-2-1, 9-2-1) a 1-0 lead.
The goal quieted what had been a vocal crowd and sapped some of the energy from the Curley players. The game was much more even from that point as the teams went through intermission and deep into the second half.
Curley, however, staved off the potential shutout with 5 minutes, 18 seconds remaining. Again, it was Arbelaez who triggered things with a free kick shot into the box and senior Tyler Sosnowski was on the spot to net the rebound, tying the game and re-energizing the Friars.
Coach Stitz believed the game had a similar feel to others his team has played this season.
“I thought overall for the year, we’ve played pretty well, but we lost some games where I thought maybe we deserved better,” said Stitz. “It comes down to making plays and today was following that same formula in a big game where we were playing pretty well at the beginning of the game, not scoring when we had the chances. They came down and scored a very nice goal and all of a sudden we find ourselves trailing again at halftime despite playing a pretty good 40 minutes.”
Curley may have never gotten the opportunity to pull off the comeback had the Gaels converted a couple of excellent opportunities. The best came with less than 10 minutes to go when Diego Guerrero got a one-on-one opportunity with Curley keeper Nathan Wdzieczkowski. Guerrero, however, did not hit the ball cleanly and Wdzieczkowski was able to turn the shot away.
“I think the effort was tremendous. To come here with their crowd and go up 1-0 and then their goal was off a foul where I though Brett (St. Martin) got up in the air and had a great header,” said St. Joe coach Mike St. Martin. “We had our opportunities to put it away when we were up 1-0 and we didn’t finish our chances. We’ll grow from this. My message to the team was that we are just going to use this as motivation moving forward.”
Curley’s victory further tightened things at the top of the MIAA A Conference standings. All three of the top teams, Calvert Hall, St. Joe and Curley each have two losses and one tie in league play. Calvert Hall has 10 wins and thus a league best 31 points. St. Joe remains in second with 28 points and Curley is third with 25 points as the three continue battle for a top two playoff seed and a first round bye.
Next up for Curley is a home game with Calvert Hall on Wednesday and then the Friars will travel to Archbishop Spalding next Friday. St. Joe will return home to host No. 11 Gilman on Wednesday and then the Gaels travel to Calvert Hall next Friday night. At the end of the upcoming week, much more should be clear with how the final seeds will shake out.
NO. 3 ARCHBISHOP CURLEY 2, NO. 1 MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 1, OT
MSJ 1 0 – 0 – 1
AC 0 1 – 1 – 2
GOALS: MSJ-Mazzei; AC-Sosnowski, Stitz.
ASSISTS: MSJ-Robbins; AC-Arbelaez 2.
SAVES: MSJ-Deshong 7; AC-Genry 3; Wdzieczkowski 2.