Twice prior to yesterday's soccer game against top-ranked Archbishop Curley, Cardinal Gibbons midfielder Steve Wojciechowski had bailed out his team with game-winning goals.
Yesterday's goal wasn't a game-winner, but it ranks as one of his most brilliant. It also held up Boys soccer
through two five-minute overtime periods for a 1-1 tie against the visiting Friars (5-0-1, 4-0-1) in a Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference matchup.
An All-City midfielder, Wojciechowski had game-winners in 1-0 victories over Division II rivals Mount St. Joseph and St. Mary's. He has scored four of Gibbons' five goals this year.
"We've got a young team and I don't want them getting too pumped up about a tie," said Wojciechowski, one of four seniors on a squad that starts six sophomores.
"It was a great tie, but it's not the whole season."
Yesterday's effort came 56 seconds before halftime against two of the area's best defensive players, second-team All-City sweeper Mike Libber and keeper Dennis Merryman (nine saves), who together anchored last year's 17-2 Friars to a school-record 12 shutouts.
Standing 10 yards out and even with the goal post to Merryman's right, Wojciechowski received a pass with Libber at his back.
"He kept his right foot wide so I couldn't get mine around, then just flicked the ball around with his left foot," Libber said.
"He had to turn a little, but I didn't see his upper body move.
"I don't know how he did it. I was amazed."
So was Merryman, who allowed only his fourth goal -- six fewer than during all of last season.
"He pulled the trigger and it went in the far corner. I couldn't do anything," said Merryman, who has two shutouts.
"I didn't think he could do it."
Curley had taken a 1-0 lead just 7:46 into the game on a goal by freshman striker Guiliano Celenza, who has five goals and three assists this season.
Later, each team botched excellent scoring chances.
An offside call nullified an apparent goal by Curley's Joe Cristy and Gibbons' George Conley bounced a penalty kick off the post to Merryman's left.
Gibbons (2-2-1, 2-1-1) switched to a defensive mode for the second half, with the Friars outshooting the Crusaders 16-3 in the period and 25-13 for the game.
Neither team made a dangerous challenge in overtime.
"Most of the sophomores were very nervous. We just wanted to get it out of the defense, make them play the ball," said Gibbons sophomore sweeper Aaron Coleman, who teamed up defensively with Dustin Hoover, Colin Moorhouse, Jerry Holz and Tim Forest.
Often, Curley was within striking distance before being frustrated by keeper Ryan Beaumont (17 saves) or simply blowing chances.