Lalli, Raiders take advantage of second chance

Jarrett Lalli scored the only goal of the game in Ryan’s 1-0 win over Hershey in the state playoffs. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Jarrett Lalli spent a lot of time texting people over the last five days.

Lalli is a junior left halfback on the Archbishop Ryan High School boys soccer team, and since he thought his season was over, he was preparing to start his offseason training with his club team, Penn Alliance, based in Upper Dublin.

Then he got a text from Raiders coach Ryan Haney giving him great news.

“We turned in our uniforms and everything and on Friday, Haney texted us and said we had a chance to play in the state playoffs,” Lalli said. “At first I thought he was kidding, we lost, we turned everything in, but then he told us Franklin Towne Charter wasn’t going, so we could play.

“I had to text my club coach and tell him I wasn’t coming to practice because we got a bid in the state playoffs. He wasn’t mad, he was excited for me. He said, ‘Good luck.’ He knows it’s important to us.”

Hey coach, Lalli won’t be back now, either. Because the Raiders are bound for the second round.

After getting a second chance at the playoffs, the Raiders defeated host Hershey 1-0 in a first-round game Tuesday night to advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday when they’ll meet West Allegheny.

Lalli, who plays defense, scored the only goal of the game off of a free kick by Jimmy McDonnell in the second half.

“Right after it was called, coach told me to go into the box and score a goal,” said Lalli, who scored his first goal of the season in the Raiders’ playoff loss to Judge. “So I went in the box, the ball went to Frankie Monaco, who flipped it to me and I put it in. It was pretty cool because as a left halfback, you’re not going to score many goals.

“It felt so good for all of us. You don’t think you’re going to get another chance to play with this team. When they were collecting the uniforms, I just thought I only have one more year of this. I felt bad for the seniors. But then we get this.”

It wasn’t easy for the Raiders, who had only three days of practice after a week layoff. But the layoff didn’t hurt at all, according to Lalli. In fact, when the team reunited, it reignited their love for playing together.

“Honestly, the first day we came back, I think we had our best practice of the season,” Lalli said. “We were so happy to get back together. I think it made our bond that much stronger. We never wanted it to end. Losing to Judge always sucks, but losing in the playoffs to end your season is really hard. We thought that was it.”

The Judge game was a tough loss, but it might have played a huge role in the team’s state playoff success.

The Crusaders, who lost a close one to La Salle in the Catholic League championship game, were one of the top teams in the area this year. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead over Ryan in the playoffs before halftime. The game ended 4-3, with Ryan controlling the second half. Even though a lot of time had passed, that momentum rolled into the game against Hershey.

“After that game, we were thinking this defense doesn’t give up four goals,” said Lalli, who led a defense that surrendered the fewest goals in the Catholic League during the regular season. “I was happy we fought back. Judge is a great team and a well-coached team, but you don’t want to lose 4-0, especially in the playoffs in front of your fans who gave up their time to be there.

“Losing 4-3 was definitely better than losing 4-0. And it helped us. If we can play like that against Judge, a really good team, we can do that against anyone. It gave us confidence and I think it’s why we did well tonight.”

The Raiders defense has been among the best in the area all year.

Led by All-State goalie Joey Phillips and defenders Lalli, McDonnell, Owen Stock and Sean Scalen, the Raiders were stingy all season and after a hiccup against Judge, were back to being stingy against Hershey.

“We’re a unit, we all play for each other and like playing together,” said Lalli, who was told he will be a captain next year when he turned in his jersey. “We played together as a team, and our defense always tries to lead the team. We have good leaders back there. If people can’t score on us, they can’t beat us.”

Lalli does a good job of taking care of business on the field. He also takes care of it in the classroom. He’s ranked in the top 15 percent of his junior class, and he credits his grades to his parents and work ethic.

“It doesn’t come really easy for me, I definitely have to work at it,” said Lalli, who lives in Parkwood. “Both of my parents are really smart, especially my mom.

“I wanted to come to Ryan as a seventh-grader, but in eighth, I didn’t. I talked it over with my mom and we decided on Ryan. It was the best decision of my life. I love it.”

He’s also loving the bonus games he’s getting.

“Nobody expected us to be here, we didn’t expect to be here,” Lalli said. “We’re all so happy we’re still playing. We want to win as many games as we can. We don’t want it to end.”