The Pallotti boys soccer team faced its toughest test last week in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference when they went on the road to play unbeaten Mount Carmel.
Although the Panthers lost, 3-1, on Sept. 13, Pallotti coach Steve Shurman saw some positive signs in the way his squad rallied, after falling behind, 2-0,
“We didn’t play as hard and as well as we should have in the first half, but we came out and we played better in the second half, and in the last 20 minutes of the game we started working hard and we got the one opportunity and that’s what we needed to spark us,” Shurman said.
Since that win, Mount Carmel, who moved down from the MIAA B Conference to the C Conference this season, improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Red Division.
Second-place Pallotti blanked Chapelgate Christian, 2-0, and Cristo Rey, 6-0, after the loss to the Cougars and is 3-2 overall and 3-1 and in second place in the Red Division.
Mount Carmel’s Colin Bonner started the scoring for the Cougars against the Panthers when he connected with 26:40 left in the first half.
Pallotti goalie AJ Markel kept the deficit at one when he made a tough save on a point-blank shot by Tyler Trout with 22:17 left in the half.
Pallotti freshman Therry Enoh made some nice runs and had one solid shot on goal that was rejected by a wall of defenders and another that was saved by Mount Carmel junior goalkeeper Austin Heid.
Enoh was injured with 48 seconds left until halftime. He returned briefly in the second half before getting injured again.
Markel moved from goalie to the midfield in the second half and gave the Pallotti offense a spark, but not until after Aaron Hernandez’s goal off a breakaway gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead with 30:10 left in the second half.
Pallotti nearly got on the board when Andres Pesoa served a nice ball into the box to Matt Emaikwu, but his shot sailed high.
Markel made a difference in the midfield in the second half with long kicks, throw-ins and precision passes.
“AJ ... isa senior, but he is more of a field player,” said Shurman, who inserted junior Daniel Quintanilla into the goal in the second half and was impressed with his play.
“Daniel did a very good job today,” Shurman said. “This is his first year on varsity, but he is learning and he’s getting much better. He’s working hard and in the second half I think he played great.”
Excellent hustle by Pallotti junior Josh Thezard led to shots by Nathan Davidson and Markel, but neither stung the back of the net.
Pallotti finally got on the scoreboard when Emaikwu scored after a breakaway with 5:36 left in regulation.
Less than 40 seconds later, Pallotti’s Kyle Constantine had a one-on-one chance with the goalie, but his shot was saved by Heid.
Just over a minute later, Hernandez scored his second goal of the game, giving the Cougars an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
“Unfortunately, they got that goal late, but we had our opportunities,” Shurman said. “Mount Carmel is definitely a good team, but I think we hung with them and showed a little bit of heart in the second half and that was something I was very proud of.”
Shurman’s main concern was his team’s inability to capitalize on scoring chances.
“I think finishing was a problem today,” he said. “I just don’t think we had the energy in the first half for whatever reason,” he said. “If we would have finished a couple, it definitely would have made it a little bit different.”
Shurman’s squad did that in the next two games and a rematch with Mount Carmel in the conference finals could be a possibility.
“Down the middle of the field I think we are pretty strong,” Shurman said. “I think we have some good senior leadership and once we get things rolling, by the middle and end of the season, we are going to be a very good team.”