Stanners win in stunner

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Sometimes one play can change an entire season; sometimes one play is really just one play, meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

It’s up to Archbishop Molloy to decide what its thrilling finish with Fordham Prep will prove to be down the road.

In the 80th minute, Mike Rodriguez’s free kick found Angelo Luongo on the right flank and he quickly sent a beautiful ball to the middle, which Denes Kostel finished sliding with a chip over keeper Mark Rajovic’s head. Merely seconds later, Molloy had a 2-1 win Oct. 4 over previously undefeated Fordham Prep in a rematch of last year’s CHSAA Class AA semifinal, won by Fordham.

The Stanners (4-2-4) had been struggling, winless in their last four games. Despite a subpar second half, coughing up a one-goal lead, they escaped the Bronx with three points and their biggest soccer victory of the season.

“It was a lousy second half, but we got the win,” Luongo said. “We’re hoping we can play like we did in the first half the rest of the games. We’re gonna be moving forward from here.”

The winning play took a blink of an eye to come together. With a tie all but a certainty, Rodriguez jumped quickly onto a free kick, catching Fordham Prep (5-1-3) unaware and finding Luongo running up the right side. In an instant, with little margin for error, Luongo played the ball to a sprinting Kostel.

“I saw him making the run,” Luongo said. “The defender was off by a few feet, so I laid him the ball and he made a great touch inside. It was a great finish by him.”

Added Kostel: “It’s good to score a game-winner, especially when we’re not winning that many games. We’ve gotta win one.”

Andy Kostel, Kostel’s father and the longtime Molloy coach, loved Luongo’s ball and his son’s run. What he didn’t like was his team’s entire second half. Erick Jara’s 23rd-minute goal would not hold up when Mark Kramarchuk equalized with a header off a Sebastian Palomino cross for Fordham. The Rams dominated play throughout the final 40 minutes.

In the first half, though, Molloy played arguably its best soccer of the season against formidable Fordham. Chris Mouzakitis played a ball into the box and it was bobbled by Rajovic. Jara jumped on the rebound and tapped it into the net.

“I want them to play the way they did in the first half for 80 minutes,” Andy Kostel said. “We controlled the play, we really did. We controlled the ball movement. It was very good. In the second half, it wasn’t there.”

Fordham Prep Coach Pete McNamara said he was impressed by Molloy, that the Stanners are better than their record would indicate. He also pointed to the physicality of the game, the 40 total fouls and six yellow cards as giving Molloy the advantage. Rams senior Spencer Heitmann left the game in the first half with a deep muscle bruise.

“That’s their style of play,” McNamara said. “They played pretty well at times, but overall I thought we played a lot better. We created chance after chance after chance and didn’t make the most of them.”

Molloy took advantage of one of its lone second-half opportunities on an almost perfect play. Will that be what the Stanners, who have won two of the last three city titles, point to as a turning point at the end of the season?

“We’re gonna play like this from now on,” Luongo said. “I’m confident in the next few games coming up and in the playoffs.”

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