So they made some halftime adjustments.
Those adjustments and a rousing halftime talk from coach Ken Lawson proved to be the difference in Holy Ghost's 3-1 victory.
"We came out very slow. I think our guys took it for granted, which you never want to do," Lawson said. "And it hurt us."
"I think when they scored, it kind of woke us up a little bit," he added.
Especially considering the Friars were the only team to beat Holy Ghost Prep in the regular season last year.
"We just wanted to take it to them and get our revenge from last year," Firebirds senior Trey Grupp said. "We came out in the second half with more momentum."
In the second half, the Firebirds (5-0), ranked third in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, came out in a 4-4-2 alignment, and moved Grupp from outside back to outside midfielder.
The move proved to be effective right away, as he scored the equalizer with 22 minutes remaining in the game. Grupp took advantage of some space and took some touches to the middle of the field, unleashing a shot from about 30 yards. It careened into the top right of the net, blowing by the keeper.
Grupp's play in particular impressed Lawson, who said that the defender really "took advantage" of being moved to a more offensive role. In the second half, Grupp often was the catalyst for the Firebirds and helped swing momentum their way.
Holy Ghost scored again in less than five minutes, when Grupp set up senior Colin O'Neill for a one-time shot that gave the Firebirds the lead, 2-1. O'Neill had several scoring opportunities, including one shot that hit the post, but the Malvern defense frequently double-teamed him, leading to some frustration.
"I've kind of been snake-bitten so far this year. I just have to keep plugging away and can't force things," O'Neill said. "Once the game opened up and we got that first goal, things settled down."
Junior Tim French scored the third goal with a little more than 12 minutes left in the game, on an assist by O'Neill.
Led by O'Neill, Grupp, and French, the Firebirds have been explosive offensively this season. Combined, the three midfielders have 13 of their team's 22 goals this season. French leads the team with six.
Just six minutes in, Malvern's Andrew Cirino scored the first goal of the game on a low, well placed shot that sneaked by the right post.
Cirino was dangerous all game for the Friars (0-4-1), consistently finding a way behind the Holy Ghost back line.
Jack Kalmes got his first start of the season in goal for the Firebirds, recording four saves in the first half.
Malvern Prep 1 0 – 1
Holy Ghost Prep 0 3 – 3
Goals: MP-Andrew Cirino; HGP-Trey Grupp, Colin O'Neill, Tim French.
Saves: MP-Connor McNeill 4; HGP-Jack Kalmes 4, Steve Kersten 2.
Contact Kate Harman at firstname.lastname@example.org.