Brother Martin flirted with disaster.
Nursing a 1-0 cushion, the Crusaders abandoned their aggressive, attacking approach, opting instead to defend more in the final quarter of the match. That meant less possession and chance creation.
“The last 10 minutes, you try to maintain the game,” Brother Martin coach Stephen McAnespie said. “You change a little bit tactically and make sure that you see the game out. There’s no reason for us to go gung ho and try to score multiple goals in this tight of a match in regulation. There’s no point in that.”
It backfired. In injury time, Lafayette corralled a clearance and launched it forward to Michelle Fleurant, who equalized with a dribbler to the far right post mere seconds before regulation ended.
The defensive lapse, however, just postponed Lafayette’s fate. Eighty-five minutes in, Brother Martin redeemed itself as Bailey Nuss fooled the keeper to send the Crusaders into the quarterfinals with a 2-1 triumph Wednesday night at Pan American Stadium.
“The ball bounced to the defender, and I saw he got nervous, so I pressured him,” Nuss said. “I jarred the ball loose, lined it up and put it in.”
The No. 6 Crusaders will play the Jesuit-Grace King winner next week.
“In the first half, we came out slowly. They were on top of us,” Lafayette coach Josh Vidrine said. “Then, we started to possess the ball a little more and that really helped us create some chances.”
Eight minutes into the match, Brother Martin pounced on Lafayette’s collapse. Forward Miles Francis tracked down a through ball on the right wing before delivering a pinpoint cross to William Thiele making a run into the box. Thiele corralled the ball and slotted it in the far right post to provide the Crusaders with a 1-0 lead.
From there, the match teetered back and forth for 70 more minutes. Brother Martin created chances that sailed wide or into the keeper’s palms. Lafayette did the same.
Until injury time. That’s when Lafayette took advantage and sent the match into extra time with a chance to upset the Crusaders.
“It happens,” Mcanespie said.
“But I just told them to get back out there, put your head down and play. It feels like you’ve lost the game sometimes when you’re in that situation, but you still have 20 minutes left. Go out there, get your mind back into the game and get it done.”