There's something about playing Cardinal Gibbons that brings out the best in Curley's Steve Ball.
The sophomore striker scored the game-winner in an earlier 2-1 overtime soccer victory over the Friars' Division II, Maryland Scholastic Association rival Gibbons.
And in yesterday's 4-0 shutout of the visiting Crusaders (9-4-2, 4-3-2), Ball began the scoring three minutes into the second half and assisted on the third goal by Andrew Kowalevicz.
"I don't know what it is about these games," said Ball, who has four goals and three assists. "I just came out and played hard."
For the fourth goal, Giorgio Szabo chipped in a rebound of an Antonio Celenza shot that had hit the crossbar.
The shutout was the eighth of the year for the Friars (12-1,11-0) and strengthened their hold atop Division II with games remaining against Friends, Gilman and St. Mary's before the playoffs.
A year ago at this time, Gibbons was amid a streak of six straight victories that earned it its first playoff appearance in years. But the Crusaders are 1-2-1 in the last four games, with injuries plaguing several players on their 13-man roster.
"When I turn to get a sub from the bench, it's kind of rough," said Gibbons coach Roch DeFrances. "We're still in third place, but we just have to get back in it emotionally."
The game was scoreless in the first half, although the Friars out-shot the Crusaders 12-3.
But in an all-out effort to score, stopper Chris Ivins, sweeper Mike Libber and even fullbacks Greg Loftus and Josh Sutherland pushed up to the midfield as the Friars out-shot the visitors 33-7 for the game.
Their efforts finally paid off, as Ball pounced on a lingering through ball near the top of the penalty area, dribbled twice along the top of the box and lifted a left-footed shot that deflected off the crossbar and down behind keeper Ryan Beaumont.
Seven minutes later, Mike Gizzi "saw the ball bouncing around loosely" before blasting in his eighth goal of the season.
"The first goal, someone on defense should have had [Ball] because he had an easy shot," said Beaumont, who had 19 bTC saves. "The second goal . . . I had no chance at it. After that, I think we just fell apart."
The Friars succeeded in shutting down the Crusaders' high-powered offense of strikers Danny Catlett (10 goals, 15 assists), Robert Holderfield (12, seven), D. J. Szyjka (seven, five) and midfielder Steve Wojociechowski (nine, nine).
Celenza, Curley's top scorer with 13 goals and two assists, was held in check by Gibbons defender Ronnie Beswick.