Gaels seize conference lead with staunch ‘D’
The second half at Calvert Hall was quiet, which made for a noisy bus ride home for the Mount Saint Joseph soccer team Friday.
Getting the offense they needed with a goal from junior Jake Mazzei late in the first half, the visiting Gaels kept the powerful Cardinals offense in check the rest of the way for a1-0 win that puts them back in first place in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph (11-2-2) improved to 10-2-2 for 32 points in league play. No. 1 Calvert Hall (12-4-2) dropped its second straight league game to fall to 10-4-1 and 31 points.
After losing 1-0 leads twice in the past week — a 2-1 overtime loss to Archbishop Curley last Saturday and a 1-1 draw against Gilman on Wednesday — the Gaels clamped down to get a victory in their biggest game so far this season.
“We went through the scenarios of what the playoff situation looks like and knew this was going to be a big game, so I was proud,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Mike St. Martin said. “Hopefully this is something we can learn from and build on. Especially [Calvert Hall] at their place with the wind and a lot going against us in the second half. So, moving forward, this puts us in a good spot, but we still have two league games left that we’re not going to take lightly.”
After Mazzei scored off a cross from Jordan Ehart, the Gaels defense took over the game. St. Martin was quick to mention the play of junior reserve Alec Fenstermacher, who filled in capably for injured All-Metro central defender Tyler Collins. Fellow central defender Brett St. Martin also enjoyed a strong performance with center midfielder Joe Clark in the middle. Goalie Nick DeShong finished with seven saves and was exceptional in soggy conditions, grabbing the last dangerous ball sent in by the Cardinals as time expired.
“They’re a really good team and we’re battling with them for the first and second seeds, so we thought this game was crucial because we want to get a first-round bye, and this was a big win. We did well defending their long balls,” Brett St. Martin said.
The steady rain that came in the early part of the first half didn’t deter either team from creating scoring chances, with the host Cardinals having the better opportunities.
But Mazzei had the game’s first breakthrough, finishing off a chance in front to give the Gaels a 1-0 lead with 7:26 left until the break. Less than a minute before the goal, the Cardinals had their best chance when senior Brady O’Connor flicked a header off a free kick from Chris Carroll that was just wide of the upper-left corner. The Cardinals pressed in the second half with Carroll, O’Connor and Ben Alexander having chances to tie the game but unable to break through.
Going into the week in first place, the Cardinals fell to Archbishop Curley, 3-1, on Wednesday and couldn’t find an answer at home against the Gaels. It leaves the Cardinals watching scores before they close out their regular season Friday against Archbishop Spalding.
“It’s a long season, and you go through stretches like this when you create some chances but can’t quite find the net, so we’re going to keep working at it,” Calvert Hall coach Richard Zinkand said.