St. Mary’s accrued another win in a perfect start to its season on Monday night, leading from start to finish on the way to a 4-1 victory over visiting Indian Creek on Pascal Field.
“To start 4-0 and just have this team be able to succeed, it’s just a great feeling,” said captain Grant Counts, who netted two goals.
Saints coach Corey Childs said he and his assistants stressed upon their players to keep their composure as they dove into the fray of a rivalry match.
“That’s one of our troubles throughout this season,” junior Kam Ross said. “We stayed composed, we got up top, we completed our chances — that’s where we found success.”
Seeing the team’s strength up top is encouraging to Ross, who also had two goals.
“Since my freshman year, we haven’t had a lot of success in the attacking third,” Ross said. “Having these additions to the team, such as freshmen, I think we’re doing great up top — completing the ball, putting it in the back of the net.”
The way that St. Mary’s offense hounded Indian Creek (0-2-1), it came as no surprise when Counts slung a diagonal ball into the net for an early 1-0 lead.
At the time, that seemed like a momentary blip because it would be a long, long while before the Saints would catch Indian Creek slipping again.
After the quick score, Indian Creek goalkeeper Patrick Smith settled in. When his defense didn’t fend Saints attempts off — though often, they did — the keeper shut them down, collecting six saves in the first half alone.
“They were coming, but at the end of the day, we lacked a little composure in the final third,” Childs said. “It was good to see them move the ball, create chances, but would like to see them breathe a little bit and put the ball in the back of the net more often.”
But when Ross went for his chance, there was no doubt.
Ross plucked the ball around the 40 and kicked up his speed. Even with the Eagles’ midfielder nipping at his flank, Ross hyper-focused on goal. Smith inched out of his net, crouched and prepared to pick up another save. But Ross launched his shot with so much certainty, nothing could stop it.
“Kam can be a very special player,” Childs said. “Sometimes playing simple can be more efficient, but he often can do the spectacular from time to time, too. Having a player like him hit stride as well as Grant Counts is super helpful for the team moving forward.”
Indian Creek didn’t seem upset being down by two goals at halftime. The Eagles stormed back onto the field, hyping themselves up.
“We were a completely different team in the second half,” Indian Creek coach Neal Conlon said.
That energy amounted to something positive for the visitors. Indian Creek senior Nicholas Stroble sprinted toward the St. Mary’s net and drew goalkeeper Erik Chick out a significant distance. Then, everything seemed to slow down. Stroble kicked, Chick turned back and tried to cover — but it was too late.
The Eagles sidelined erupted into throaty cheers, having scored the first regular season goal on St. Mary’s of the fall.
“I wish we could’ve had a couple more,” Conlon said. “We’re building. Right now, coming into this season with no season last year because of COVID, we’re right where we wanna be. We’re seeing our team continue to build.”
The Saints paid them back quickly.
Ross scored his second goal of the night, this time having a shot ricochet off the back of an Eagle and into the net.
Just minutes later, Counts flew at the box. When he fired, the ball cleaved through the Eagles backfield and struck the back of the cage to make it 4-1.
While encouraged by the win, Childs and the Saints are now looking ahead at the long, 14-game conference season still sprawling ahead.
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“It’s great. Our first game, we won 1-0 and had a lot of chances. We’ve just been working on putting the ball in the net a little more often,” Childs said, “but great start to the season so far. Every competition we play, it’s still a battle.”