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Gibbons' four-prong attack is a balance of power Players have 31 of team's 33 goals


One's got speed and the hardest shot; another has finesse. A third is happiest passing the ball, while the fourth, by consensus, "is the team's best all-around player."

Meet the quadruple threat that is responsible for generating 31 of the 33 goals the Cardinal Gibbons soccer team has scored in its first 10 games.

Better yet -- try to stop them from putting the ball away.

"A lot of the things we did last year, we were one-dimensional," said junior striker Robert Holderfield, who is the Crusaders' fastest player and leading goal-scorer with 10.

"The rest of the team used to kind of just stay back, let me make a run and try to get the ball to me," he said. Teams started figuring us out pretty easily."

But with center forward Danny Catlett (eight goals, 13 assists), left-side striker D. J. Szyjka (four, four) and center midfielder Steve Wojciechowski (nine, seven), the Crusaders are dangerous from anywhere beyond the midfield stripe.

Just one team -- McDonogh, in a 1-0 victory -- has managed to hold Gibbons scoreless, and that was after having absorbed an 8-0 season-opening loss to the Crusaders.

The other team to beat the Crusaders, No. 5 Archbishop Curley, was behind 1-0 before winning, 2-1, in overtime. And the Crusaders were playing without Catlett, who was forced to miss a game for being red-carded in Gibbons' previous victory, a 4-0 shutout of St. Mary's.

"After playing Curley the way we did, without Danny, I think they feel we're capable of beating anyone in the league," said coach Roch De- Frances, whose Crusaders' 4-1 Division I record ranks second only to Curley.

A typical Gibbons attack might have the following scenario:

Getting a redirected ball from the defense, Wojciechowski, the most skilled of the foursome, acts as the point man.

On the right is the Crusaders' most physical player, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Holderfield, who runs the sideline ready to blast away with the team's heaviest kick.

On the left side is Holderfield's foil, Szyjka. He likes to lure in defenders, then send a timely cross-field volley to Holderfield, a touch-pass back to Wojciechowski, or a low seam-splitting pass to Catlett.

"I prefer to pass," said Szyjka. "But I'll take it in once in a while."

Catlett does well when collecting rebounds or a lead pass from Szyjka or Wojciechowski. But he's most dangerous with his back to the goal.

"Steve might go to me, Rob will go long, and Danny's always in the right place at the right time," Szyjka said.

Holderfield said the scoring foursome has a reputation for being "hot heads," and a few teams successfully have frustrated the Crusaders' attack simply by being physical.

"People have heard we can get frustrated, so they'll kick us a lot or something," said Wojciechowski.

Catlett admits being occasionally flustered. But just like Holderfield and Szyjka, Wojciechowski and Holderfield balance each other out.

"Steve has the right kind of intensity. He's the way a coach wants it to be," said DeFrances. "But Danny, if he's hit, he's going to hit back."

OC A year ago, DeFrances helped Gibbons reach the playoffs for the

first time in years, only to watch the Crusaders fall to Mount St. Joseph, -- the eventual runner-up -- 3-1, in overtime.

Catlett had scored the game's initial goal, only to be ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Crusaders have a rematch with Mount St. Joseph tomorrow at Cardinal Gibbons.

L "This is our chance to make up for last year," Catlett said.

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