Top-seeded St. Thomas More scored a pair of goals off throw-ins as the Cougars cruised to a 4-1 win over No. 9 East Jefferson in a Division II quarterfinals match at Joe Yenni Stadium on Tuesday.
“Clearly, it worked a lot,” said St. Thomas More’s Josh Toomey, who scored on a 10th minute flip throw-in. “We got a lot of chances off of it. Whenever I throw really well, I can kind of tell that something good is going to happen. I kind of knew on the first throw, so it was exciting. Today’s a big win, so we’re ready for the next round.”
The Cougars (17-6-6) will play the winner of No. 4 Alexandria-No. 5 Beau Chene winner in the semifinals later this week.
Despite a somewhat sluggish first half, St. Thomas More scored early off Toomey’s 30-plus yard throw-in that glanced off Warriors keeper Jorge Daniel Alvarenga and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
The Cougars continued the pressure as Grant Rodrigue’s header in the 19th minute was just wide, but the Warriors responded.
In the 23rd minute, Erick Lara found space in the box but sent his hard shot just over the crossbar. Just four minutes later, Hector Cuellar sent a header over the crossbar off a corner.
The Cougars nearly extended their lead just before halftime as Ormond LaSalle’s header bounced off the crossbar.
St. Thomas More coach Brian Casey Friend said he told his team at halftime to focus on its strengths — set pieces, especially long throw-ins.
“I have great kids, and they adapt to what I want them to do,” he said. “We came out kind of sluggish in the first half. We didn’t play the game that I wanted us to play, so we talked about it at halftime. They listened to me, and we played to our strengths.”
St. Thomas More didn’t take long — just three minutes — to extend its lead in the second half. In the 43rd minute, Jack Meijer was fouled in the box, and Blake Bolgiano converted the penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.
The Cougars controlled possession from there, but the Warriors nearly cut into the lead in the 50th minute as Jean Carlo Pineda’s header was headed to an open net before a St. Thomas More player redirected it. The rebound shot sailed over the crossbar.
St. Thomas More added another goal in the 66th minute from Meijer off another Toomey flip throw-in, and Ormond LaSalle tacked on another goal off a 25-yard free kick just four minutes later.
District 7 champion East Jefferson (16-5-4) avoided a shutout in the 73rd minute when Christian Hernandez scored. East Jefferson coach Yazmin Sarasino said her team battled throughout.
“It was a great match, and it was a great team to play against,” she said. “St. Thomas More had what it took to be the No. 1 team. They had a lot discipline and a lot of talent, but we gave them a match. That’s all we could do. My boys worked their butts off to get where they’re at, so I couldn’t have asked for a better effort.”
Friend said his team’s ability to score early in each half was key.
“The first five minutes, the first 10 minutes of most games, we come out hot,” he said. “If you look at most of those, the first 10 minutes decide the game. That’s a good thing because if we go up on them early, it puts the pressure on them.”