LYNN — The longer the St. John’s Prep soccer team kept Madison Park off the score sheet, the better chance it had at winning last night’s Division 1 North semifinals contest.
As strong of a defense as the Cardinals had, the Prep had outworked and outplayed them the entire way.
The third-seeded Eagles took it down to wire, more specifically more than 95 minutes into a scoreless double overtime. After two quality scoring chances by Madison Park, the Prep headed upfield determined to end the game.
After a misclear by the Cardinals, junior midfielder Tom Erickson got a shot off that found the right side of the net as the Eagles won, 1-0 with 3:31 left in double overtime.
“He hit it with confidence and certainly got his moneys worth,” said Prep head coach Dave Crowell. “I really feel we deserved to win this one. I know we dodged a huge one at the very end there, but we had complete domination of this game — we just couldn’t finish it.”
The Prep (16-2-3) is headed back to the North final to take on Somerville for the second straight season. They’ll play tomorrow back at Manning Field at 2 p.m.
“They’re a different team and we’re a different team,” Crowell said of the Somerville matchup, which the Highlanders won a year ago. “I’m sure everyone’s going to talk about the rematch. They’ve certainly hit their stride in the tournament, with eight goals in the first two games.”
Erickson was able to find the back of the net through traffic. His shot was precise and exactly what his team needed to prevent a penalty kick situation.
“Tom’s a kid who didn’t start the game, but his minutes have increased every game through the tournament,” said Crowell. “He was hurt in the middle of the year, but he really stepped up. I told him; ‘Thanks for making me look like a genius,’ because he hasn’t been out there in those crunch minutes.”
Scoring chances were few and far between for both teams. The Prep and Madison Park each put four shots on goals, while the Prep held the advantage in corners, 6-1.
Senior captain Matt Chilton and junior striker Paul Magazzu had a handful of solid runs, but couldn’t get their shots on goal.
“We knew that Madison Park was going to strong and physical and that if we passed the ball around them, we’d accomplish what we needed to,” said Magazzu. “When they missed those shots at the end, I know it was destined that we’d win. If they were going to score at all it was going to be then. We’d been having some bad luck the entire game and we finally got us some luck.”
The Cardinals, which finished their season at 14-2-3, brought a physical presence to the field that the Prep just couldn’t contend with. Instead the Eagles used their speed and sharp ball handling skills to take down their opponent, and the plan worked.
“When you get to this point, certainly anything could’ve happened,” noted Crowell. “I certainly didn’t want to go to penalty kicks, because that’s no way to settle a game. I really believed that we were the better team.”