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Notre Dame holds off Jim Thorpe

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    Jim Thorpe's Coyote Acevedo (21) tries to fend off Andrew Valentim of Notre Dame during Tuesday's playoff game. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published October 31. 2018 02:48PM

Momentum is a key in the successful outcome of every game in every sport, and it is certainly evident in a playoff soccer game between two evenly-matched teams.

Down 2-0 with just 12 minutes to play Tuesday, Jim Thorpe scored once and dominated play, but couldn’t punch in the equalizer in their 2-1 loss to Notre Dame in the semifinals of the District 11 2A tournament.

With 10 minutes to go, JT senior Ryder Wallace took a pass from Raymond O’Neill and blasted the ball past Crusaders’ goalkeeper, Fulivo D’Avilla, into the right-hand corner to cut the margin to one.

In the final 10 minutes, the second-seeded Olympians dominated play. Preston Lawrence, Thor Huth, Alex Putt, and Wallace mounted wave-after-wave of attack, but couldn’t penetrate ND’s wall of defenders to get many good chances at the net.

“We have a bunch of kids who just love to play defense,” said Notre Dame assistant coach John Hohn. “They stood tall and strong and did a great job against their rushes right up until the end.”

Perhaps Thorpe’s best opportunity to tie the game occurred with three minutes left when O’Neill got behind the defense and headed a long kick point blank from a few feet away. But D’Avilla made the save.

“We changed up some players in the second half, and they gave us a spark.” said Olympian head coach Mike Dudak. “We took a chance and moved more players up top to get more scoring chances and it worked, but we just ran out of time.”

Third-seeded Notre Dame had Thorpe on its heels in the beginning of the first half. At the 33-minute mark, Jacob Schaeffer’s header was stopped by a diving Kingsley Ehling, but he was not so fortunate a minute later when the Crusaders’ Andrew Valentim was fed by Kendrick Gallego and found the right corner to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.

Jack Morris nearly tied the score when his free kick from 25 yards out barely sailed over the crossbar. Morris nearly scored again on another long free kick, but the ball was grabbed by D’Avilla.

The next 26 minutes of the first half were dominated by Notre Dame, who was stopped twice in close by Ehling.

In the final seven minutes before the break, JT’s Lawrence and Putt both had chances. Then with two minutes to go, Huth ripped one into the net, but the goal was nullified because the official said a Notre Dame defender was shoved from behind just before the kick.

With 12 minutes gone by in the second half, the Crusaders’ Schaeffer rushed the net and beat Ehling for an unassisted score and a two-goal lead.

In the final minutes of the game, the Olympians did everything, but score. Side-angle kicks went wide, O’Neill’s header — their best chance — bounced over the crossbar.

“We played Russian Roulette near the end, but we just couldn’t cash in our opportunities,” said Dudak, who had his goalkeeper standing at midfield to help keep the ball in the offensive zone. “I even considered pulling my goalkeeper, but we had our chances. In the beginning, they beat us up pretty good, but we played them dead-even after that.”

GIVING HIS TEAM A CHANCE ... Ehling was busy making 21 saves, keeping his team in the game.

SUCCESSFUL SEASON ... Jim Thorpe finished its season with a record of 14-7-1, which included a seven-game wining streak at the end of the regular season.

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