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Boys soccer tops LaSalle to reach semi

Over the last two-plus decades, the Emmaus High School boys soccer program has been the gold standard in District 11. But when it came to the bigger stage, at the state level, the Green Hornets struggled to find more of the same success.

Last Saturday afternoon Emmaus did something it hadn’t done in 14 years: win a state playoff game. The Green Hornets (14-1 overall) defeated District 12 champ La Salle College Prep 3-2 in the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals at Memorial Field for the program’s first state playoff win since 2006. The Hornets also advanced to the semifinal round for the first time in 20 seasons.

“I am ecstatically proud tonight,” said Emmaus head coach John Cari. “That was a good team we just played. We’ve shown heart. We were down and came back and found a goal. They tied it. We came back again. We put three in the flow of play. We have not put one in the flow of play since Southern Lehigh, which is seven games ago. We’ve been all in set pieces. We know we’re a good defensive team and we knew they were really good. That was a big step for us. I am super proud of our efforts tonight.”

Senior Patrick Walsh had the game-winning goal with just 9:21 left in the second half, as he headed a cross off a corner kick from classmate Hudson Peck past the Explorers goalie to push Emmaus back in front for good.

“I saw my teammate Hudson Peck. He was getting up to step into it,” Walsh said. “I just made my run right to the front post where he was going to play it. I got my head on it and spun it right in. I was super happy. This was the biggest game that I’ve probably played in my high school career, and what better way than to win it.”

La Salle opened the scoring in the 15th minute, but a little over eight minutes later, Emmaus tied it thanks to a goal by senior Nathan Romig on an assist by Alex Toto.

Toto then took matters into his own hands in second half, giving his team its first lead of the game at 2-1, after he sent a shot from about 35 yards away past the Explorers goalie with 26:24 remaining.

La Salle would tie the game at 2-2 with 13:34 to play before Walsh’s winner.

“It feels great to make history,” Walsh said. “It’s been a while since we’ve done it. I’m super proud of all of our seniors and all of our guys. I’m just happy that everybody was able to contribute today.”

Goalie Ty Bleiler finished with four saves to earn the victory. The Green Hornets were outshot by the Explorers 6-5, and each team recorded six corner kicks.

Emmaus advanced to take on District 1 champion Neshaminy in the state semifinals this past Tuesday at Neshaminy High School. That game was played after Press deadline.