Rosario Troia knew the momentum changed and he was more than ready to prove it.
The Archbishop Molloy senior forward felt the ball land at his feet with just minutes left in regulation and kicked, netting the equalizer as the Stanners notched a 1-1 draw with St. Anthony’s on Monday afternoon.
“I just saw a big pocket of space and attacked it,” said Troia, who knotted up the game on a cross from Michael Perkins in the 85th minute. “We just had to keep up the intensity. I knew a goal or a good opportunity would come.”
It was a come-from-behind performance for the Stanners, who found themselves down early after Matt Barresi got St. Anthony’s on the board in the fifth minute.
The Friars, ranked No. 4 in the Tri-State by News 12 Varsity, took advantage of a Molloy foul as Barresi connected on a rocket of a free kick from nearly 36 yards out.
“I just decided to let it go and it worked out,” Barresi said. “It definitely helps going up early. The team starts to play with more confidence because you know you’re ahead.”
The Friars (9-0-3) continued to pressure throughout the first half, controlling tempo and grabbing every loose ball in the midfield.
Molloy, ranked No. 16 in the Tri-State by News 12 Varsity, was held without a shot on goal in the opening frame as St. Anthony’s back line kept the Stanners on their heels.
“We didn’t play well enough in the first half,” Molloy coach Andy Kostel said. “We didn’t come into the game thinking we could compete with them. Once we figured out we could compete with them, we played well.”
The Stanners (9-1-4) did their best to find a bit of momentum heading into the break, seizing possession and pushing the ball into the attacking third. It was a switch the squad looked to maintain in the second half, but Molloy still struggled to get that one, big opportunity. In fact, the Stanners recorded just three total shots all game.
“It comes back to just keeping up the intensity,” Troia said. “Once you have the will and the heart to score, then the whole team is into that and we can't be stopped.”
St. Anthony’s locked in on defense down the stretch, but the Friars hoped their offense could really break the game open with a handful of chances. The squad’s best chance came in the 77th minute, but Jonathan Lamantia’s shot sailed over the crossbar.
“We had a couple of very good opportunities in the first half and then, I think, we had probably about six or seven in the second half,” St. Anthony’s assistant coach Don Corrao said. “What we told our guys was just to get a couple things sorted out at midfield and up top. We get a little more quality and our future is very bright."
As St. Anthony’s found itself frustrated with almost-there looks, Molloy continued to bring pressure while the clock ticked down and the Friars’ strong back line, finally, cracked. Troia’s goal was the Stanners’ only shot on net all game.
It was a difficult finish for the Friars, but St. Anthony’s refused to focus on the negative. After all, there were chances and, despite the final score, the defense was impressive for much of the game.
“I thought our defensive effort was very, very good today,” Corrao said. “We lacked a little quality at midfield and in the attacking third. It’s hard when you work that hard and you just miss some quality moments to put the game away.”
Molloy, meanwhile, is anxious to hold onto that late-game momentum going forward, looking for a complete-game performance and, maybe, another matchup with the Friars in the CHSAA state tournament.
“I think the draw still means a lot for the team,” Troia said. “St. Anthony’s is always a good team and getting this draw means a lot to us. We played well.”