Mularoni’s game-winner lifts Catholic Central past Country Day, into Division 1 Title Game
Novi – Not pleased with his play in the first half on Wednesday’s Division 1 semifinal game against Detroit Country Day, Detroit Catholic Central’s Rocco Mularoni said he was looking to make a difference in the second half as his team trailed 7-6 at halftime.
And the Shamrock’s junior attacker did just that.
With the game tied 13-13, Mularoni scored his fifth goal of the second half with just 1:19 left to play to give the Shamrocks their first lead since the early stages of the first quarter as Catholic Central would hold on for a 14-13 win.
“I came out and I knew I didn’t play very well in the first half,” Mularoni said. “So I wanted to make a difference in the second half and I picked it up a little bit.”
The junior added that senior midfielder Zack Crawford sent the pass to the front of the net, but the ball bounced off of Mularoni’s facemask and rolled into the net to give his team the lead.
“Crawford came in on the backside and I cut through to the front of the net,” he said. “He threw me the ball and I didn’t really catch it, it bounced off of my facemask and ended up going in the net.”
With the win, Catholic Central advances to the Division 1 state championship game where the Shamrocks will meet rival Birmingham Brother Rice for a second straight year.
After Mularoni’s goal, the Shamrock’s turned to their defense to close out the game as sophomore goalie Hunter Braun turned away a shot with under a minute left to play and after a timeout with 11 seconds to go, the Catholic Central defensive pressure wouldn’t allow Country Day to get a clean shot off as time expired.
Catholic Central coach Dave Wilson said that his team didn’t make any defensive changes late in the game, but extended its pressure and relied on Braun and the Shamrock defense to step up when they needed to.
“We didn’t really change anything,” he said. “We just tried to extend a little bit more to make them work a little bit harder and our goalie’s been hot, so you got to trust your guys. The defensemen have to do their job and the goalie has to do his job.”
Country Day coach Michael Cappelletti said that while his team had success throughout much of the night getting around the Catholic Central defense, the Shamrocks defense kept the Country Day attack from doing that in final 11 seconds of the game.
“They were playing out on everyone,” he said. “We did a good job of running by people all night, and for whatever reason at the end, maybe we were tired or playing tight because when they took the lead, it might’ve been their first lead of the game. But nothing they did tonight caught us by surprise, we talked a lot about their players and their schemes, but at the end of the day and there’s a ball and a field and it came down to ground balls and faceoffs.”
After Country Day widened its lead to 11-8 with 8:32 left in the third quarter on a goal from Devon Callaghan, the Shamrocks responded with three straight goals, two from Mularoni and another from Nicholas Capatina to tie the game at 11-11 with six minutes left in the third.
Country Day took the lead back just one minute later and pushed its lead to 13-11 early in the third quarter with both goals coming from Callaghan.
But again, the Shamrocks had an answer and Mularoni scored with just over six minutes left to play to trim the deficit down to 13-12 and a goal from Andrew Schertzer later knotted the game up at 13-13 with 2:52 left to play.
“We had the ball a lot more in the second half,” Wilson said. “We’ve been talking about the harder you work, the luckier you get. I think it just trickled in, but you only need to win by one.”
In the first half, Country Day led by as many as four goals, after two goals from Cooper Belanger and Emilio Sosa to start the second quarter, but Catholic Central narrowed the deficit down to 7-6 before the end of the half two goals each from Joe Sullivan and Crawford.