Catasauqua Press

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Boys hope to squeeze into playoffs

Thursday, October 10, 2019 by Steve andres Special to the Press in Sports

The Catty boys soccer team played a spirited second half against Palmerton last Thursday, drilling into the visitor’s lead to make it a one-goal game, but the Roughs comeback bid ultimately fell short, jeopardizing their chance for a district playoff berth.

Catasauqua was on the second night of back-to-back games, having lost a heartbreaker to Tamaqua the prior evening when the Raiders scored two goals in the final minutes to win, the game-winner coming with under a minute remaining.

It was also senior night, and head coach Josh Inman felt the pregame festivities surrounding the match may have contributed to their sluggish start, falling behind the Blue Bombers 2-0 before the intermission. Inman, who’s guided the Roughs to their best record, took responsibility for that sluggish start, feeling that he let his players down for not anticipating the impact of everything going on around them.

In the end, Inman felt it was a tale of two halves.

“In the second half, we came out with a different fire,” he said.

That fire got more intense when Damian DiPaolo scored to cut the lead to 2-1 on a sharp strike that beat the Palmerton keeper to the near post. His goal at the 7:18 mark now seized the momentum.

Inman said that they made some slight adjustments to their formations in the second half, pushing another player into the midfield, allowing for a few more opportunities. Inman said that led to the Blue Bombers moving further and further back as the Roughs looked for an opening.

“You could see them sitting deep, protecting, and we just couldn’t break through,” said Inman.

Still, he applauded their effort.

“In the second half, they put it together and they really showed that they had that heart and desire to improve and be the best that they could be on the field,” said Inman.

Before the game, the Roughs recognized seniors Joseph Merkel, Jordy Leon, Westley Brown, Justin Claudio-Phillips and Sebastian Arias.

Merkel, a four-year veteran, said that it’s been a great season so far. They’ve accumulated more wins in his senior season than in any of his previous three years.

“We’re playing more as a team this year,” said Merkel. “So we have a lot more chemistry rather than all people just trying to play one-on-one.”

He said that unselfishness has paved the way for the team reaching six wins on the year so far. Merkel said it’s a welcome departure from the past where one or two players tried to do it all.

He also said that a large part of their success comes from the maturity of their underclassmen.

“A lot of the younger guys are stepping up,” he said.

With the combination of the younger players taking on bigger roles, and the experience and leadership of the senior class, Merkel is looking forward to a strong end to their season.

“We’re just working our hardest to have the best season we can, and hopefully qualify for districts,” said Merkel.

If they do qualify, it would be the first time he’s played in the postseason.

That district picture became more complicated after they dropped their final game against Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School. With only six teams qualifying this season, the Roughs, who finished at 6-12, may be on the outside looking in once the seedings are finalized.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, the Roughs rebounded in the second half against Palmerton, the team came alive and dominated the action. But the goal by was all they could muster.

“We had our opportunities in the game, but we just couldn’t execute,” said Merkel.

As he reflected on his four years, Merkel said that once coach Inman arrived after his freshman season, he and his staff revamped the program, putting in place a new culture and attitude.

“They got us to play as a team,” he said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be at where we are now, have the record we have, or be as close as we are as a team.”