Chance upon chance, that final moment of brilliance proved elusive. Until a late first-half goal, that is.
The Calvary/Tolton Lions finally were rewarded for their build-up play with a beautiful sequence that resulted in the game-winning goal just minutes before the halftime whistle.
"We were getting break after break, it was just a matter of eventually getting on the end of it," Calvary/Tolton head coach Thomas Senter said following the Lions' 2-1 victory Thursday against Montgomery County at the 63 Sports Complex.
The deciding play combined a perfectly placed through-ball from Caleb Murray to lead a streaking Luke Allen on a breakaway, and the freshman took one dribble and delivered a clinical finish, rocketing a low shot into the right corner of the goal.
"The guys figured out how to connect and get through their defense," Senter said. "They were playing flat and Caleb just threaded it through. It was beautiful."
The breakthrough came in a half where the Lions barraged the goal with six shots, yet couldn't come up with the finishing touch. It was Allen who finally did.
Calvary/Tolton took the lead just six minutes into the contest. Sam Molli played a long ball down the middle, and in a footrace between the Lions' Cal Kolzow and the Montgomery County goalkeeper, it was Kolzow who got there first and headed the ball into the net from near the top of the penalty box.
"It was coming out of the gate and bringing intensity and not giving up on the ball, and it paid off for him," Senter said of the tally. "You're not going to see too many major-league games where somebody gets a header right at the 18 and it goes in. He really brought it.
"I might have to put (Allen and Kolzow) against each other, I don't know who sprints the fastest. Both of them are freshmen so I'm really looking forward to having them for a while."
Montgomery County found the equalizer 28 minutes into the game, as a scrum in front of the net ended with the ball at the feet of Michael Scott, who deftly slid it into the right side of the net.
"Montgomery County really brought a strong squad with them," Senter said. "They're not to be taken lightly. They're aggressive, they showed speed."
Allen's goal just before halftime capped the scoring.
Montgomery County held a 12-8 edge in shots in the first half, including a 7-6 advantage in those on goal.
The unsung hero of the second half, and maybe the game, was Calvary/Tolton goalkeeper Evan Brenner. Taking over for the injured Ross Schlichting, who tore his ACL against Battle on Tuesday, Brenner was phenomenal. The junior made nine saves over the course of the game, including a point-blank chance in the second half on a rebound following a shot off the crossbar.
"He brought his best for us and we really benefited from it," Senter said.
Montgomery County finished the game with a 23-13 advantage in shots and a 12-11 edge in shots on goal. It was the play of Brenner, along with a bend-but-don't-break defensive approach, that produced the win for the Lions.
"Like I said from the get-go, if we're going to play anything well it's going to be defense," Senter said.
Montgomery County falls to 0-3 on the season, while Calvary/Tolton improves to 2-1.
The Lions travel today to Belle for a 5 p.m. start.