ROYERSFORD — Losing your first league game after rolling to a 9-0 start shouldn't be a reason to sound the alarm.
But Spring-Ford boys soccer coach Doug Landis looked at a tired, increasingly negative squad following Monday's three-goal defeat to Perkiomen Valley and knew something needed to change.
"Monday was a tough loss,' Landis said. "Last week we had five games in six days and after Sunday off they were still a bit sluggish and tired. PV came out fired up and ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard.
"(Tuesday) we wanted to tone it back a bit. We didn't even go out on the practice field. We stayed inside, had some team bonding, looked at some film and talked about the team and refocused ourselves. And we came out today and looked fantastic.'
Transformation Tuesday, if you will, came at the right time for the Rams entering Wednesday's battle between Pioneer Athletic Conference contenders as senior forward Dan DiLiberto scored a pair of first half goals to send Spring-Ford to a 2-1 victory over Boyertown at Coach McNelly Stadium.
After DiLiberto opened the scoring on an assist from midfielder Jerry Williams' flick header on David Gulati's long throw-in, he doubled the Rams' lead by running on to Kole Lyons' free kick and scoring 1:13 before halftime. Boyertown senior striker Tyler Comport scored for the Bears, converting a penalty kick with 18 minutes remaining following a hand ball in the box.
"I feel like after we lost to PV I knew we needed this game. I knew I needed to score to help my team,' said DiLiberto. "I think we took PV too lightly. We thought we were the frontrunners and we thought we could just beat any team, but that put some sense into us. We knew we needed to win this game to move forward and we came out and did it.'
Williams, who was especially influential all game in controlling the midfield, believed his team used Tuesday's day of rest to refocus and bring its best performance of the season.
"I think for this game we came out a lot differently than we have before,' the senior midfielder said. "I think we got psyched up for it and focused a lot more. We played our game today, more than any game before. We came together as a team after the PV loss. I think that really rallied us to play a good game today. We played our possession-style game and got the result.'
The Rams have done just that this season while jumping out to a 10-1 mark in the PAC-10, good for first place in the Liberty Division. They stayed ahead of Boyertown, which fell to 8-2-1 in the league, their only two defeats coming against Spring-Ford.
The defeat changes little for the Bears in the mind of Comport, who expects his team to go out and go for the win in every game from here forward.
"We still have to win the rest of the season and we can clinch second place or first place and we feel fine if we would face them in the championship. That's where we go from here,' Comport said.
Coming out reenergized was just what was needed for Spring-Ford in the early going.
Boyertown goalkeeper Tim Lawlor made an excellent save on the Rams' Gulati from close range early. Midfielders Brian Gryscavage and Williams dictated the game's tempo well for the Rams through much of the first half while the Bears were largely content not to press the ball.
Though the run of play favored the Rams, it took a set piece to break into the scoring column. Williams met Gulati's long throw-in from the left side with a flick header that fell to DiLiberto — who was waiting on the far post to smash a shot, which ricocheted off Lawlor and into the goal for a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute.
Then in the 38th minute, DiLiberto finished off his second set piece — a free kick from 35 yards out over the top of the defense. He ran on to the ball and beat the keeper to the left for the 2-0 advantage.
"It was a free kick and I guess the defense didn't see it that well. I read it and got there and finished it,' DiLiberto said.
After seeing his team largely on the defensive in the first half, Boyertown coach Scott Didyoung shifted an extra body into the midfield to even the playing field in the second half and give more support to forward Comport, who was largely isolated through the first 40 minutes.
"I had no one up top with me, it was one versus four. It was very tough,' Comport said. "It's hard because you can get frustrated and start putting your head down but I try to stay positive.'
Spring-Ford was quite close to taking an insurmountable lead 10 minutes into the second half on a nice combination between Gulati and DiLiberto.
But the next goal would go to Comport, just minutes after he nearly scored on a free kick that hit the right post.
A Rams defender was ruled to have handled the ball in the box after a Boyertown corner kick. Comport stepped up and coolly sent a low drive to the left for the Bears' opening goal.
"I've taken them before. I'm confident, just put it in the corner, hard and low,' Comport said. "With a big keeper it's harder to get down. Just keep it down and it's pretty much a goal.'
It made for an interesting final 18 minutes.
"We finally just got some confidence; we began passing to feet rather than just playing the ball over the top,' Comport said. "We were substituting a lot so we had fresh legs and they kept their defenders in the whole time and they started to wear down.'
But the Spring-Ford defense, led by Lyons and Cole Pajovich, along with plenty of support from the attack that also featured speedy senior Nick Bombard, stood up to the challenge.
Coach Landis liked what he saw from his refocused squad.
"We're trying to generate some excitement,' Landis said. "We came out as a fresh, new team. We changed a lot of things about how we're going to react on the bench, how we're going to react on the field and I think it took some pressure off the boys. They were very calm, very controlled and you saw the result.
"On the bench, before we'd just sit and watch the game. Now, we're up on the sideline cheering. We talked about leadership and communication on the field — only positive criticisms, nothing negative. As a coach I think I can emit some of that positive energy that the kids can feed off. I wanted the kids to hear me on the sideline cheering for them and hopefully it makes a difference.'
It certainly did Wednesday.
Lawlor finished with five saves while Spring-Ford goalkeeper Pat Swartz stopped three shots. ... The Rams led in corner kicks, 7-2, and shots on goal, 6-5. ... Boyertown's Matthew Hudson sent in three solid deliveries on free kicks in the first half. ... Boyertown was without goal-scoring threat Barry Kabinoff, who sat out due to a red card in a previous game.