Hawks blank Explorers in league opener

Posted: September 15, 2007

St. Joseph's Prep traveled to Wyndmoor with a mission.

Never mind that two-time Catholic League champion La Salle graduated its entire starting lineup. The Hawks see the Explorers as one of the elite programs of the league's former North Division. In order to win its first league title, St. Joe's must be able to defeat those teams.

Well, one down, four to go.

St. Joseph's Prep defeated La Salle, 2-0, in yesterday's Catholic League opener.

With the win, St. Joe's, ranked sixth in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, improved to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the league.

La Salle (3-2-1, 0-1) lost its second straight match.

A former South Division power, St. Joe's would not have played La Salle in the regular-season in years past.

The league decided to scrap its North and South divisional format in boys' soccer this season. As a result, all 16 teams will play each other once, with the top eight qualifying for the playoffs.

It's a change that has the Hawks elated.

By far the superior team in the former South Division, St. Joe's rarely played a close regular-season game in recent years. That lack of competitive matches was a huge disadvantage in the postseason, according to players and coaches.

"We have a talented, very skilled team," Hawks coach Jim Murray said. "We hope to get our shot this year.

"But we still haven't seen [Archbishop] Ryan, [Father] Judge, North [Catholic] and [Archbishop] Wood. I'm sure they will be right there. They will be knocking on the door, just like we are."

If opponents don't stay alert, Sean Dooley and Chris Kay will make them pay. Taking advantage of an Explorers miscue yesterday afternoon, Dooley scored what turned out to be the game-winner in the ninth minute.

"It was probably just being in the right place at the right time," the senior striker said.

Standing unmarked 6 yards out, Dooley misdirected a Michael Brennan header into the net.

La Salle had a chance to knot the score seconds before intermission. However, Explorers center defender Tom Smart missed a penalty kick.

Seizing on the momentum swing, the Hawks got an insurance goal in the 53d minute. Kay scored on a rebound to give St. Joe's a two-goal cushion.

"Goals are tough for us to come by," La Salle coach Bob Peffle said. "We can't afford any hiccups, as we had surface again today. We just have to grow and get better."

Although the Explorers hope to minimize mistakes, the Hawks eagerly await another challenge from a former North opponent.

St. Joseph's Prep1 1 - 2

La Salle0 0 - 0

Goals: SJ–Sean Dooley, Chris Kay.

Saves: SJ–Mike Liciardello 11; L–Stephen Kelly 4.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029

or kpompey@phillynews.com.

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