COAL TOWNSHIP — After seeing his team squander numerous opportunities and trailing 1-0 at the half, Lourdes Regional coach James Sandri thought he had witnessed the turning point in his team’s game with visiting Northumberland Christian School.
The Red Raiders earned a penalty corner with 30:58 left, its second of the half, and junior forward Adam Sandri delivered the ball to the far side of the goal where senior forward Matt Grabowski drilled it past the keeper for a 1-1 tie just 16 seconds later.
“We got that goal back in the second half and I thought it lit a fire underneath us,” Sandri said. “I thought we were going to get more, but it is what it is.”
For a while, it appeared that the coach would be proven correct. His Red Raiders looked like they would seize the momentum and grab control of the nonleague contest at Leo Mulhall Stadium.
Instead, after Lourdes failed to score on three shots within five minutes, the tables started to turn and a throw-in by Jackson Kelly led to what proved to be the winning goal, with 16:15 to play, by Logan Kauffman in a 5-1 Northumberland Christian victory.
“We were aggressive when we shouldn’t have been aggressive and made a mistake and they went in. They have a good team and they have some good strikers and they put the ball in the goal,” the coach said.
Northumberland Christian coach Jonny Rees said, “They have a lot of good strikers and with all the corners they were due to get one and they finished one finally.”
Noting that most of his players lack height, Rees said that they were missing 6-foot-4 midfielder Aaron Knauss.
Coach Sandri agreed that his team’s failure to capitalize early and giving up the first goal gave the visitors some momentum.
But, he also said, “I thought we made some mental mistakes which gave them that early goal, and the kids fought back and started playing, and we got that goal back in the second half.”
Rees said he moved a player back after the first 20 minutes of the first half to mark center-forward Grabowski so that he couldn’t receive the ball and run at the Warriors’ defense.
“That helped us control the midfield more and allowed our other midfielders to get the ball and possess a little better and it made a big difference,” Rees said.
Five minutes after his tie-breaking goal, Kauffman struck again, assisted by Derek Schoeppner, making it 3-1 with 11:11 to play.
After that, the Warriors controlled things while Lourdes emptied the bench.
“The last 10-15 minutes, we really started passing the ball better and getting the ball wide and taking the easy ones,” Rees said.
The Northumberland coach said his team also benefitted when they began to put more pressure on Lourdes junior forward Hayden Hain.
“He’s a fantastic player,” Rees said.
With Lourdes (1-3-1) going with massive substitutions, Kelly added an unassisted goal and Joshua Groninger closed out the scoring on an assist by Schoeppner.
Sandri said, “Looking back, this is my 10th year and at the beginning of the season I told the boys this is probably my most athletic team I’ve ever had.”
But he said one player moved to Pittsburgh, another left the team and a third is still not sure if he wants to play.
He said all are athletic kids who would have made a big difference and added that Lourdes could be 4-1 after Thursday’s game.
“Some of the kids aren’t just jelling yet and it’s just rough getting them there,” he said. “I don’t know if I have to make some position changes, but we’ve gotta get back on track,” the coach said.
“We just didn’t play well, we didn’t receive the ball well.”