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Christ the King soccer suffers heartwrenching defeat in CHSAA quarterfinals

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A penalty kick began a wild Christ the King rally and brought it to an end.

The Royals scored twice in the span of a minute in the game’s final four minutes to draw even, but Niall Pereira’s penalty kick in the 78th minute ended any chance of a victory. Regis handed CK a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat in the CHSAA Class AA quarterfinals at Aviator Sports Complex Tuesday. It kept Christ the King from reaching the semifinals for the second straight year. Regis will play the Molloy-Stepinac winner in the semifinals Thursday at St. John’s University.

“It’s tough to lose the way that we did,” said CK senior midfielder Calogero Curcuru. “But you have to look at the way we fought. That’s a positive.”

The handball call left Royals Coach Ovid Cusu livid at the moment and after the game. He felt the referee hesitated before making an incorrect call because he felt the ball followed a safe path. Pereira had his shot go off the bottom of the outstretched hand of a Christ the King defender in the box.

“It’s not like it’s changing direction,” Cusu said. “He hesitated before he made that foul call… There is nothing we can do against the refs.”

Christ the King (11-5-0) dug itself of a 2-0 hole early in the second half. Juan Obegron put in a penalty kick after a handball call in the box to make it 2-1. A minute later Cucuru raced Regis keeper Davis Szczepankiewicz to the ball just beating him in time to poke the ball into the goal and knot the score at 2-2.

Despite the comeback, CK felt it didn’t capitalize on its control of play before Regis (9-8-1) got on the board, a time Cusu called “absolute domination.” They left multiple scoring chances unfinished and the Regis defense limited clean shots. CK’s Andy Munez saw his shot from the top of the box punched away on a diving save by Szczepankiewicz in the 48th minute. Curcuru also had a point blank shot also stopped.

“We didn’t bury the chances it had and it kind of haunted us,” Cucuru said.

Regis made CK pay. The Raider Donal Maloney fended off Ortiz and scored to the top right corner in the 54th minute. Regis put together a goal five minutes later as Robert Eilbacher headed in a free kick to the far post to give Regis a 2-0 lead.

St. Francis Prep 5, Xavier 0: Michael Fields and Lawrence Nikaj each scored twice for St. Francis Prep in the other quarterfinal. Brandon Silva added a goal and an assist. SFP (14-2-0) was eager to get on the field after Hurricane Sandy.

“From then we had pent up energy and I guess we unleashed it today,” Fields said.

The Terriers, the defending city champions led 2-0 after 18 minutes. They face the Fordham Prep-Xaverian winning in the semifinals Thursday at St. John’s University at a time to be announced. Xavier ends the season 9-5-3.

“To play at St. John’s on a big stage in front of big lights really is a good feeling,” Fields said.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.

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