At the beginning of last week, sitting with his guys discussing playoff scenarios, Chapelgate coach Jason Bennett decided not to sugarcoat things. For a team that was three games under .500 at the time, losing was officially no longer an option.
“We talked about how every game for us right now is a must-win situation … there’s no more room for error,” Bennett said. “At the same time, I told them that if we handle our business then we’re not out of this thing. We just had to do our part.”
Four straight victories later, including a shutout of St. John’s on Friday afternoon, the Yellowjackets have not only answered the call, but also put themselves right back in the postseason mix.
Streaking down the right side with just over 10 minutes left in regulation Friday against the Vikings, Chapelgate’s Sam Rivera eluded three defenders and finished inside the far post for the deciding score in a 1-0 win that ties the Yellowjackets for third place in the MIAA C Conference Red Division. The top three teams from each division make the C Conference playoffs.
“I just felt like time was running down and it was up to me to put the team on my back and make something happen,” Rivera said. “Not being cocky, but we needed a win and I figured I would take it to goal and see what happened. Luckily I was able to score.”
Rivera’s tally came after a game that was played primarily in the midfield. Both teams had created a handful of chances but nothing had found the net.
St. John’s (6-5-1 in MIAA C), which had defeated Chapelgate (6-5-1) 3-1 earlier this fall, had a couple of particularly dangerous runs in the first half that were thwarted by Yellowjacket goalie Tommy Carlson (6 saves).
But come crunch time, it was Chapelgate that found that little something extra to produce the game winner. Playing against a team that was above them in the standings, Bennett said his guys knew that a loss or even a tie could ruin a chance at making the playoffs.
“I think everyone understands how important every point is right now and that a tie isn’t going to help us the way a win can. It’s pretty obvious that three points is better than one,” Bennett said. “In a tie game late, there’s definitely a little extra push to be aggressive and go for the win.”
St. John’s got a corner kick in the final seconds that could have tied things, but Chapelgate deflected the ball out of bounds and the final whistle blew before the Vikings could get off another attempt.
During this recent four-game winning streak, Rivera said the team has really come together.
“Positive energy, that’s been the difference,” Rivera said. “We’re staying composed, not getting down when something goes wrong and that’s allowed us to build this momentum.”
Chapelgate has one game left in the regular season — a meeting against Glenelg Country on Tuesday. A win there assures the Yellowjackets of at least a tie for third place in their division, which would then bring tiebreakers into play.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we have a chance and that’s exciting … we just have to treat Tuesday’s game against Glenelg Country with the same urgency we’ve had for these last few games,” Bennett said.