After a nightmarish start to the season, Archbishop Spalding's boys soccer team has rebounded quickly.
Nick Ashbeck controlled a cross from Aaron Barclay and scored the game-winner with 11 minutes to go as the Cavaliers won their second game in as many days, shutting out visiting Mount St. Joseph, 1-0, in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A conference opener on Wednesday.
Ashbeck's tally was the fourth in-deep opportunity of the game for Archbishop Spalding (2-2). Hunter Alchin was wide right on a one-touch in the first half and hit the left pipe two minutes into the second, and Barclay himself could not score on a 1-on-1 with Gaels keeper Nick Deshong.
"That goal was bound to happen after all the other chances," Ashbeck said. "The ball got onto my foot and I was fortunate to put it in."
Archbishop Spalding (2-2) coach Joachim Walker, a Mount St. Joseph grad and former coach, was not pleased with the way his team came out after defeating Fallston, 7-2, on Tuesday.
"We forgot how hard we worked to play our style," Walker said. "St. Joe was very organized and we did not match their emotions early."
The Gaels (0-2-1) had the better run of play for most of the first half, but struggled to finish passes in Archbishop Spalding's defensive third, struggled to finish on goal, and too often took on more than one defender in low space areas.
"We had plenty of chances, and if we finish those opportunities, then it is a whole different ball game at the end," Mount St.Joseph's Josh Ridgeley said. "They had the momentum at the end there to finish the ball they did."
Alchin noticed a change in the Cavaliers' spark after the break.
"The intensity picked up," Alchin said. "We had a bad warm up and a bad first half, so we just picked it up."
Ertel, who made five saves, and the rest of the Cavaliers' defense did just enough to keep Mount St. Joseph off the board. Ertel had two point-blank stops on Mac Puller in the second half alone.
"Those first 40 minutes, we came out flat-footed and they threw a lot at us," Ertel said. "They made me work for the clean sheet with those 1-on-1s and their free kicks. Our boys anchored down during those and held them off."
Chad Greber was part of the defensive effort that buckled down late in the game. Despite some sloppy cross-field passes, and getting dispossessed in bad spots early on, the Cavaliers held Mount St. Joseph scoreless.
"MSJ gave us a run, and their strikers never stopped, but we just had to communicate and stay as a unit back there," Greber said.
That allowed Ashbeck's score to serve as the winner. Playing with a torn tendon in his right arm, Ashbeck beat a Gaels defender to the ball and then beat a hard-charging Deshong to the near post.
After suffering 4-0 losses to area powers McDonogh and Severna Park to open the season, and surrendering 10 goals in its first three games, Archbishop Spalding is moving in the right direction.
"We were humbled and learned a lot in those games, and I think we are already starting to see the benefits of staying with it," Walker said.
GOALS: AS - Ashbeck. ASSISTS: AS - Barclay. SAVES: MSJ - Deshong 5; AS - Ertel 5. SHOTS: MSJ - 11; AS - 10. CORNERS: MSJ - 5; AS - 1.