Last Modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 9:00 AM
HOUMA — The Vandebilt Catholic boys soccer team went from ecstasy to agony all in a matter of seconds on Saturday afternoon.
In barely a blink after scoring an equalizing second-half goal against No. 2 St. Louis Catholic in Division II semifinal action, the Saints got the goal right back when Will Solari ripped in a shot from distance with 8 minutes to go. St. Louis held off the No. 6 Terriers for the 2-1 victory at a blustery Buddy Marcello Stadium.
The Saints (19-5-6) advanced to Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. final against No. 1 Beau Chene (14-1-3) at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans.
It was the fourth year in a row St. Louis has eliminated Vandebilt from the playoffs and the Saints will be going for a state record fourth consecutive soccer state title.
Solari’s goal came with the wind to his back and seconds after Vandebilt (14-9-2) tied the match at 1 when Austin Benton’s cross got through St. Louis goalie Marcus McNamara, and Grant Rodriguez finished it to tie the score.
After the whistle restarted play, Solari, a junior who said it was the biggest goal of his life, sent in a long shot that curved over and in past Vandebilt goalie Patrick Watson.
“I really just listened to my coaches. They tell me to go in and shoot the ball, so I went in and shot the ball,” Solari said. “It was big. Having the wind at our back was big also. It helped us push through.”
Saints coach Jason Oertling said his team did a great job of answering the Vandebilt equalizer.
“It would have been real easy to just hang our heads and let Vandebilt keep coming because they were coming, but we came right back down the field, and Will made an incredible shot. It takes a great shot to beat their keeper,” Oertling said.
The goal did not come without a bit of controversy. Terriers coach Matt Kelso said he was not pleased with the officiating in the match and said he felt there was a handball on the Saints just before Solari’s goal.
“It was definitely a hand ball,” Kelso said. “I saw it. The referee was 20 yards away, and he saw it. He went to consult with his linesman, and evidently his linesman was not paying attention. It was a hand ball. When we bring in a crew, we expect them to fulfill their obligations. Everybody has a bad day at the office, and they had one (Saturday).”
Terriers senior Nick Terrebonne said it was tough to watch as the Saints answered the goal by Rodriguez.
“After we scored that goal, we felt like it was ours to win with the home crowd behind us and encouraging us,” Terrebonne said. “It felt like we were going to come out with the victory, but they came right back on us.”
The Saints jumped ahead 1-0 in the 6th minute when Jon Lorio cleaned up a ball in front of the VC net for the 1-0 lead.
From there, VC had a few opportunities to score before the end of the first half, which included a header from Rodriguez that was just high and a header from Zachary Breaux that McNamara was able to snag, but the Saints held them off and led 1-0 at intermission.
“We always want that team to have to fight that wind in the second half when the wind is a factor,” Oertling said. “But we had to weather that storm in that first half.”