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Southeastern Pa. boys’ soccer notes

The St. Joseph's Prep soccer team last season won 18 games, captured Catholic League and District 12 crowns, and lost a mere three games - each by one goal.

The St. Joseph's Prep soccer team last season won 18 games, captured Catholic League and District 12 crowns, and lost a mere three games - each by one goal.

The Prep returned the kind of talent from 2010 that had most pundits ranking them in the state's top five this preseason.

Yet six games into the 2011 campaign, the Prep is at a humble 2-3-1. Already saddled with two league defeats and one draw, the Hawks are in danger of missing the Catholic League playoffs for the first time since 1975, coach Jim Murray said, if things don't improve.

So what's going on at 17th and Girard? Schedule and fatigue are two factors. First, the Hawks had a stretch of three games in five days (between Sept. 9 and 13) in which they went 1-2. Then came another identical stretch that began last Thursday in which they went 1-1-1, including a shocking loss to Conwell-Egan.

Missed scoring opportunities also have contributed to the early woes. Various penalty-kick chances have been wasted and posts hit on shot attempts.

Murray hopes sophomore midfielder/striker Tolu Ibkunle can step up his point production, while the Hawks continue to rely on leading scorer and senior captain Tom Cugliotta.

The team has scored just seven goals thus far.

"One of the things you emphasize with a soccer team," Murray said, "is when you create opportunities, you have to capitalize. You can't let the real good opportunities get away, and we feel we've done that this year."

Ghost triumphs, La Salle reeling. Could a Class AA team be the best side in Southeastern Pennsylvania? How about the best in the state?

Though they it rings in at No. 3 in the Inquirer rankings this week, Class AA Holy Ghost Prep is making a strong case for the alpha team title in the season's early goings.

Led by a strong offensive front, the Firebirds took on a difficult three-game schedule last week, punctuated by a convincing 3-1 victory over nationally ranked and former Inquirer No. 1 La Salle.

Though La Salle coach Bob Peffle maintains that the Explorers "didn't put their best foot forward" in their lone loss, there is no blurring of the result's significance.

"It's a shake of the psyche," Peffle said.

Still, it's becoming increasingly clear just how good Holy Ghost is, sitting at 5-0 with wins over two bigger schools: AAA state-title contender La Salle and Council Rock South. Junior Colin O'Neill provides some serious punch alongside St. Joseph's recruit Tim Lazorko.

La Salle is left to repair some tactical flaws that have been exposed, namely in how its backs can contain teams with speedy offensive weapons, such as the Firebirds - regardless of school size.

"No matter how many students you have in a school," Peffle said, "you get 11 to 15 guys out there, that's all it takes."

Game time for Hatters. Touted for its senior experience - after returning nine starters from last season - Hatboro-Horsham is desperate for a signature win.

After opening with a 3-2 mark, with a convincing 3-1 loss to Central Bucks West on Monday, the Hatters will get a crack at undefeated C.B. South on Wednesday. Friday, they will face undefeated North Penn.

A couple of wins to finish the week would have Hatboro on track, but a couple of more losses and the season could be in jeopardy.