Barons' pressure gets to Crusaders

Published February 5, 2005

CLEARWATER - With the game and the district playoffs on the line, Robby Stahl demanded the ball.

With only seconds remaining in regulation, Stahl darted down the left side of the field, took a crossing pass, and scored to give St. Petersburg Catholic a 2-1 win over Tampa Catholic in the district final at Clearwater Central Catholic on Friday.

"I wanted that ball on my foot," Stahl said. "It was my turn and when I saw it coming at me, I knew I could make it. I wanted it in that situation."

SPC coach Anatol Popovich said he came into the game knowing his team had to keep the pressure on all night, and the Barons accomplished their goal.

"We came in and knew we had to attack," Popovich said. "As long as we kept up the pressure, we knew we would be okay. That last goal was nice."

Tampa Catholic coach Chris Meyer said he's just glad the Crusaders are moving on.

"We're just happy to be where we are," Meyer said. "When you play a team like St. Petersburg Catholic, you know they are going to come at you with a lot of heart.

The Crusaders (7-7-4) weren't expected to get past top-seeded Jesuit on Wednesday, but they earned a 1-0 win and a trip to the finals. SPC (14-6-2) got there after a 2-1 win over CCC. Both teams open regional play on Thursday.

The first half was sluggish with both teams squandering several scoring opportunities, but Tampa Catholic got on the board first when Geoff Oliveria split the SPC defense, then outfought SPC goalkeeper Davis Rodriguez for the ball. He fired into an open net to give the Marauders the lead.

Minutes later, SPC tied the score when Tim Kolb sent a corner kick that curved toward the goal and off the hands of Tampa Catholic goalkeeper Matt Malone and into the net. The Crusaders almost took the lead with only minutes remaining in regulation when Oliveria sent a crossing pass to Taylor Dunn who headed the ball off the top crossbar. The win marked SPC's first district championship since 1999.