PENNSAUKEN – There appears to be a new emerging power on the South Jersey high school boys soccer scene.
After showing signs of progress over the past couple of years, the Bishop Eustace Prep team has continued to improve on its surprising start to the season.
The Crusaders had four different players connect for tallies on Wednesday and turned back Cherry Hill West 4-0 in a battle of Top 10 Olympic Conference National Division teams.
The victory lifted the No. 4 Crusaders to 6-1 for the season, while No. 6 Cherry Hill West, one of the most consistent programs in recent seasons, fell to 5-2.
While others may be surprised by what the Crusaders have accomplished, including a recent 2-0 win over No. 7 Shawnee, coach Dave Maffa is not among them.
“I think we’re really jelling,” he said. “We’re got a really good group of seniors and a lot of younger guys are following their lead.
"A lot of these guys have been with the varsity program for two, three, even four years. So the experience is there, and the signs have been there for the past few years.”
Moffa believes a 12-win season helped set the stage for what’s happening now.
He thinks the team gained confidence with some big wins a year ago, and they’re continuing to build on that foundation.
“We’ve been taking steps forward,” he said. “Last year, beating teams like Washington Township and these guys (West), I think they started to build some confidence and this year it’s been great from the start.”
The Crusaders jumped on West for two goals in the first 20 minutes, those coming from Matt Pattison and Andrew Pietrangelo, and they never let up.
Vinnie Lamina added a third goal in the second half and Jake Munz put in a nice head ball off a perfect header feed from Zach Sorenson
Pattison’s goal came just eight minutes into the game, and that set the tone for what was to come.
“I think the chemistry has been great since the start of the season,” said Pattison. “From the very beginning of the summer league, we’ve just been clicking and it’s been getting better and better as the season goes.
“Hopefully the rest of the season is just like tonight.”
A couple of Eustace goals were picturesque in their nature. Piertrangelo made it 2-0 when he connected for his goal on a head ball set up by a corner kick from Joe Makar, who also assisted Pattison’s goal.
“These guys are stepping up big time,” said Maffa. “I would say a lot of our players have a good soccer IQ. It’s a smart team. We do a lot of talking about soccer intelligence and they just absorb it all.”
The players seem comfortable with the thought that Eustace must be considered in the mix when considering South Jersey’s better teams.
Pietrangelo thinks the squad will be up to the challenges ahead, but he also offers a word of caution about getting over-confident.
“It’s nice to think that we’re all that now, that maybe we’re one of the powerhouses in South Jersey,” he said. “But you can’t get too high on highs and you can’t get too low on the lows.
“We just have to take it one game at a time, and try to carry as much momentum as we can into the playoffs.”
Lamina suggested that it was the Crusaders lone loss to conference rival Seneca in the third game of the season that got the team going.
Losing was a feeling that did not sit well with the Crusaders and forced them to refocus.
“That was a terrible loss,” Lamina said. “We said as a team we need to pick up the intensity and come out hard from the start.
“This doesn’t surprise us. We expected to play 100 percent from start to finish – always.”
Cherry West 0-0-0
Bishop Eustace 3-1-4
Goals: Matt Pattison, Andrew Pietrangelo, Vinnie Lamina, Jake Munz, Goalies: Zach Young, BE, (4 saves), Chase Sgouros, CW (7 saves)