HOCKESSIN – Salesianum and Caravel combined for seven goals in each of the last two seasons when the teams met on the soccer pitch, and they did that again on Sept. 19. But while the last two years resulted in 7-0 shutouts for Sallies, this one went the distance and then some, requiring overtime before the Sals could escape the battle of the two defending state champions with a 4-3 win at Hockessin Soccer Club.
Caravel, ranked first in Division II by 302Sports.com, gave up two early goals on turnovers, but a penalty kick from Jacob Rubini brought the Buccaneers to within a goal at the half. That set up an eventful second half on an afternoon when Caravel outplayed Salesianum – No. 1 in Division I and the fourth-ranked team in the country – for much of the contest.
Sallies came out after halftime with renewed vigor, heading a corner kick inbounds wide and missing high on two other shots. In the 46th minute, however, the Sals played tic-tac-toe to net an insurance marker. Ben Strine lobbed a pass toward Andrew Blackwell, who bounced it off his chest toward Jack Leonard. He picked the ball out of the air about shin-high and drilled it into the corner low to the left of Bucs keeper Colin Lewis.
Sals keeper Emmett McCloskey kept the lead at two with a spectacular diving save in the 60th minute, but the Bucs kept the pressure on. The hard work was rewarded in the 69th, when Patrick St. Leger scored on a half-volley, connecting on a ball that bounced high off the crossbar.
Rubini had three opportunities to level the score in the closing minutes. First, he pickpocketed a Salesianum defender and sent a shot that was deflected over the end line by McCloskey. Rubini also would miss just wide right, then left.
But Caravel earned a penalty corner with seconds to go, and this time, the Bucs scored. Ben Schwartz sent the inbounds into the crease, and Brandon Sengphachanh was able to power a header past McCloskey.
The Sals entered the extra period with more energy, and they didn’t take long to close it out. Casey Kurlej had a shot blocked in the first minute, leading to a Sallies corner. That didn’t result in a goal, but the momentum had swung. Leonard took a pass deep in Bucs territory and sent a turnaround shot toward Lewis. He was handcuffed by the shot, and the ball rolled behind him. Kurlej was there to finish, and the Sals remained undefeated, although tested.
Both Kurlej and Leonard scored twice in the contest. In the fourth minute, Kurlej took a through pass just outside the 18-yard box, dribbled in and blasted a left-footed shot into the corner of the net. Just eight more minutes elapsed before Leonard struck, stealing a pass and beating Lewis one-on-one.
Salesianum (3-0) outshot the Buccaneers, 12-7, and had four corner kicks to Caravel’s three. The Sals will play St. Augustine (N.J.) on the road this Saturday morning before heading to Iowa for three games next weekend.
This was the first loss after three wins for Caravel, which welcomes Middletown to Bob Peoples Stadium on Friday at 3:30 p.m.