There was no need for hocus-pocus.
Apparently all second-ranked Lexington Catholic needed was to focus.
The Knights played what they called their best game of the season in a 4-1 drubbing of No. 3 Manual Thursday in the semifinals of their own Challenge Cup.
"We hadn't been focusing at all in warmups and drills," senior Erin Prater said. "Usually we're talking about boys and everything but soccer. Tonight we focused on our passing and movement, things we should be focusing on."
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That focus paid off in the form of a 3-0 lead at the half courtesy of two goals by Prater.
After knocking off No. 3 in the semifinals, the Knights (9-1-1) get a date with No. 1 Sacred Heart in Saturday's championship game.
The Valkyries are a familiar foe. The three-time defending state champions, who topped No. 16 Assumption 2-1 in a shootout in the first semifinal, have faced Catholic 18 times since 2001 and the Knights have won just twice.
The two dueled to a 1-1 draw in their season opener.
Catholic Coach Terry Quigley no doubt feels better going up against No. 1 with the team he saw Thursday.
"That was the first really good game we've played this season," he said. "We hadn't put 20 solid minutes in until tonight.
"We'd been working on their attitudes in the warm-ups and the seniors did a great job of preparing them."
Coming into the game, Quigley worried about the Crimsons' set of dominant forwards, but by the end of the first half, the Knights showed they had some scorers of their own.
Prater scored first, collecting a rebound of her own shot off Manual keeper Katie Pope and tapping into the goal about 17 minutes into the game.
With six minutes to go in the first half, Mary Catherine Combs settled a ball in between Crimsons defenders and launched a hot shot from more than 20 yards out.
Prater scored again with 40 seconds to go in the first half, launching a 25-yard free kick into the goal. It appeared that Pope punched the shot back into her own goal. Mary Beth Gorham added a goal in the second half.
Manual, which had a six-game win streak snapped, had allowed only 17 goals coming into the game.
In the second half, the Rams (10-2-1) got their first and only shot on goal and their first goal at the same time on a Sam Tilton slicer through the defense.
It was a big win for a Catholic defense that starts three sophomores.
"Their scorers are as lethal as I thought they were, but our midfield and defense were able to control the ball," Quigley said.
No. 1 Sacred Heart 2, No. 16 Assumption 1 (shootout): Senior goalkeeper Maddie Peabody has never seen a shot she didn't think she could block and she usually does.
The active 5-foot-6 keeper blocked two Assumption (2-7-2) penalty kicks to lift the Valkyries into their third straight Challenge Cup title game, of which they've won the past two.
Both teams took their time getting comfortable, not scoring until there was less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, first on a Sacred Heart (6-1-4) goal from Kelsey Malyszek, followed shortly thereafter by one from DeeDee Sliter to even it up.
Sacred Heart 2, Assumption 1 (SO)
Goals—A: Dee Dee Sliter; SH: Kelsey Malyszek. Shootout—A: Rebecca Schwager (wide left), Camille Ogden (blocked), Morgan Riggs (goal), Christina Elmers (blocked); SHA—Andrea Distler (goal), Lucy Chauvin (off post), Erin Feger (goal), Maggie O'Hara (goal).
Goalkeepers—A: Elmers; SH: Maddie Peabody.
Records—Sacred Heart 6-1-4, Assumption 2-7-2.
Lexington Catholic 4, Manual 1
Goals—LC: Erin Prater 2, Mary Catherine Combs, Mary Beth Gorham; M: Sam Tilton.
Goalkeepers—M: Katie Pope, Stephanie Tapolsky; LC: Kate Fitzgerald, Sarah Youkilis.
Records—Manual 10-2-1, Lexington Catholic 9-1-1.