St. Mary’s boys soccer hopes to walk on a road ending in a championship. It needs to be tested in physical games like the one Indian Creek brought to town Monday.
Better yet for the Saints are the hard-nosed, body-colliding games that result in wins, like Monday. Piling their best efforts into the second half, the Saints held off the Eagles for a 3-1 victory — an important boost before facing Severn, their bitterest rivals and the team that took their crown, on Friday.
“Something we’ve been driving home that all these teams are physical, that every game we come on to is physical, and that we have to overcome that, be focused, play our game and not play down,” said Saints assistant coach Liz Tobe, who was filling in for head coach Corey Childs.
The Saints’ top scorers, Kam Ross and Charlie Roy, faced heavy coverage all night from the Eagles most prominent defenders. Regardless, Roy edged by his guards enough to assist one goal and deposit another, all while absorbing an important lesson: the league had finally caught up to the sophomore’s abilities.
“I just had to drag the ball to my teammates, move it around quickly, not hold the ball for too long,” Roy said.
The defenses squashed every scoring opportunity early, though St. Mary’s (7-1) came closer than Indian Creek to a goal. Sophomore Cole Counts took a cross and lashed a shot seemingly destined for the goal but it instead dribbled into the corner of the field instead.
The Saints, though, would not miss another opportunity.
After 20 minutes of equal pressure flipping back and forth over the midfield, St. Mary’s offense sustained its presence in its attacking third. Roy sprinted through a crack in the Indian Creek defense. He dished to junior Wilson Wood who then delivered a cross through the thinnest lane of traffic to sophomore Landon Ross.
Ross converted his first varsity goal, and a necessary one for St. Mary’s in the end.
“It’s a testament to Charlie, that he helps the team play to a whole ‘nother level,” Tobe said. “And it was great to see Landon get on the board tonight. That was a great first goal for him.”
Indian Creek had a chance to rebound, but found itself in an outcome frustratingly familiar.
Eagles senior Brad Spirt stepped up to take a penalty kick, just as he had once before against Annapolis Area Christian School weeks ago. His kick leapt into Saints goalkeeper Erik Chick’s hands, just as it did against AACS.
The Eagles certainly didn’t want another uncomfortable déjá vu moment, but they would get one. Ten minutes into the second half, Saints senior Dylan Sharpe thundered towards the last Indian Creek defender before the box. Instead of colliding with the Eagle, Sharpe and his ball instead brushed by. There, Roy was waiting, turning and crushing the shot into the strings for a 2-0 lead.
To Indian Creek’s delight, not everything would be an unhappy recreation of their last meeting with the Saints. Eagles junior Riley Handwerger loaded another penalty kick and hit it. It would provide momentary relief; Indian Creek celebrated that success for all of two minutes before St. Mary’s forward Kam Ross practically burned a hole in the visitor’s net with his penalty shot.
But in defeats, Eagles coach Isaiah Noreiga wants his players to come away with something for the next game.
“It’s important for the boys to keep their head up. It’s a long season,” he said. “We’ve definitely played some of the tougher teams in the beginning. Just keep our heads up and keep working. We’ll get there.”
On the other side, Tobe knows that earning those victories in the midst of difficult offensive-defensive skirmishes all over the field will serve to build the Saints’ confidence in tough games to come.
“I think it helps them get the mindset right,” she said, “that this is what we’re gonna go up against.”