Judge soccer gets payback in win over La Salle

Aaron Povlow and the Fath­er Judge soc­cer team had been wait­ing 10 long, bru­tal months for this game, so the goal go­ing in was pretty cut and dry.

“It was a re­venge game,” Povlow said mat­ter-of-factly. “Re­venge … that’s what we needed.”

Povlow was speak­ing in the mo­ments fol­low­ing Fath­er Judge’s pretty con­vin­cing 3-2 vic­tory at home Wed­nes­day night against the two-time reign­ing league champs La Salle. It was the Ex­plorers who put a halt to Judge’s sea­son a year ago, end­ing a Cru­sader Cinder­ella run with a con­vin­cing 3-0 win in the Cath­ol­ic League title tilt.

Povlow, a ju­ni­or on last year’s team, re­mem­bers the dev­ast­a­tion all too well. The Cru­saders had im­prob­ably marched to the title game des­pite be­ing without their two best play­ers, Steve Smeck and Justin Hiltwine, for the en­tire sea­son. As oth­er play­ers stepped up in­to un­ex­pec­ted lead­er­ship po­s­i­tions and saw their roles in­crease, the team de­veloped a nev­er-say-die, can’t lose at­ti­tude that has car­ried in­to the 2013 sea­son.

The fi­nal score on Wed­nes­day read 3-2, but Judge dom­in­ated the game for the first 70 minutes, us­ing a re­lent­less de­fense to smoth­er the La Salle at­tack. Pair that with the op­por­tun­ist­ic Cru­saders tak­ing ad­vant­age of early chances in front of the goal, and the Ex­plorers nev­er really had a shot, des­pite mak­ing things a tad bit in­ter­est­ing with two goals in the fi­nal 12 minutes.

If there was any doubt left that the un­defeated Cru­saders (9-0) are the top soc­cer team in the city, they quickly washed it away by is­su­ing a pun­ish­ing de­feat to a team that does not lose of­ten.

“We were so pumped for this game throughout the whole week,” said Povlow, who scored the second of Judge’s three goals off a re­bound stem­ming from a corner kick with just un­der 20 minutes to go in the first half. “We really just wanted to come out con­fid­ent and play our game.”

The in­tens­ity was cer­tainly in the air as ar­gu­ably the top two teams in the Cath­ol­ic League squared off un­der the lights. Play was chippy on both sides, and the Judge side­line was per­turbed that La Salle’s de­fense put star mid­field­er Joey Hansen on his back one time too many. With 28:48 left to go in the game and Judge hold­ing a com­mand­ing 3-0 lead, head coach John Dun­lop was is­sued a red card and ejec­ted from the game fol­low­ing a con­front­a­tion with one of the ref­er­ees. Dun­lop’s re­mov­al from the field oc­curred fol­low­ing a scrum between a La Salle play­er and Judge ju­ni­or for­ward Ab­ra­hem Krama (who scored Judge’s first goal less than nine minutes in) be­hind the Ex­plorer goal.

“It’s our rival game, one you look at on the sched­ule,” Dun­lop said fol­low­ing the win. “At some point, you just have to fight for your play­ers.”

There was cer­tainly no love lost between the two teams fol­low­ing the game, shak­ing hands af­ter­ward, know­ing it’s likely they could meet again in the play­offs later in the year.

Judge con­trolled the tempo throughout, nev­er al­low­ing any semb­lance of pos­ses­sion flow for the Ex­plorers un­til late in the game. With seni­or cap­tains Hansen and Ry­an Nork, La Salle Uni­versity sign­ees and two of the top play­ers in the league, an­chor­ing the Cru­sader mid­field and keep­ing the ball con­stantly mov­ing, more op­por­tun­it­ies were af­forded to oth­er play­ers like Krama, Povlow and seni­or mid­field­er Geoff De­g­nan, who scored what turned out to be the game-de­cid­ing goal on a pretty, float­ing cross in the fifth minute of the second half. That fact is not lost on Judge’s oth­er at­tack­ing play­ers.

“We have so many threats,” said Povlow, who was a bull­dog on the left wing be­fore ex­it­ing the game with a mild calf in­jury mid­way through the second half. “If we’re passing the ball well to each oth­er, then nobody is beat­ing us. Those two (Nork and Hansen) con­trol the middle, and I think the rest of the guys are more con­fid­ent in them­selves than ever.”

Des­pite the two late goals, a large amount of the cred­it should be giv­en to the Judge back line, which al­lows very few goals (just four total in nine games), in turn al­low­ing the of­fense to ap­ply pres­sure early on. Judge’s de­fens­ive unit is anchored by seni­or de­fend­er and cap­tain Joey Malves­tuto, who is flanked by seni­ors Dav­id Rodriquez and Sam Caran­cia, as well as ju­ni­or Mama Bah, who had a very strong game against La Salle. Seni­or goalie Danny Sulp­iz­io, who is as en­ter­tain­ing as he is skill­ful between the posts, has be­come a shutout ma­chine with six.

“They’re really con­nec­ted to­geth­er in the back,” Povlow said. “They’re just really strong back there, and they like each oth­er. They just click.”

Dun­lop agreed.

“They know they don’t get the press they de­serve, and that’s fine, but they take a lot of pride in them­selves as a unit,” he said. “They know that if they can put up a one or zero on the score­board, then our guys will get at least two goals for them. And they just like each oth­er. My whole team likes each oth­er. They’re a good group to work with, so this is a cred­it to them.”

Judge is ex­tremely deep and ex­per­i­enced across the board. For the most part, many of these play­ers already learned how to jell as a unit last year, so the res­ults now seem like clock­work. A group that knows how to win in this league play­ing with this much con­fid­ence can be a night­mare for op­pon­ents, es­pe­cially be­cause the Cru­saders make so few mis­takes, an­oth­er sign of their grizzled vet­er­an status.

“Nork and Hansen, they’re the en­gine, but every­one else on this team knows their role,” Dun­lop said. “We’re hit­ting our stride at the right time. So far every­one is fit­ting in, and it’s work­ing. With our ex­per­i­ence and seni­or lead­er­ship, they made sure the pre­par­a­tion for this game was per­fect. We’re seni­or-ori­ented, we’re smart and we’re ex­per­i­enced, and we wanted to show that.”

Now that they’ve got­ten the La Salle mon­key off their backs, all that’s left for the Cru­saders to do is cap­ture the Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship, something that has eluded them in go­ing 0-3 in title games the past three years.

Judge will be ready for the play­offs when the time comes, but there’s still a whole lot of sea­son left. For now though, Povlow said the Cru­saders will have no trouble en­joy­ing this vic­tory.

“It’s an awe­some, awe­some feel­ing … the best feel­ing,” he said. “We just want to keep play­ing hard and play­ing our game. I think last year got us ready for the task at hand this year. A lot of starters on that team are back this year. We con­nec­ted last year, and now we’re even bet­ter.”

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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