The Concordia Prep boys soccer team is showing its ahead of its own schedule.
In their first season in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, the Saints were hoping they could simply hang with the top teams in the area’s most demanding league.
Instead, they are doing more.
Further proof came Wednesday at home against No. 7 Loyola Blakefield, when forward Ryan Calheira scored the first of his three goals in the opening minute of play, setting the tone for a 4-2 Saints victory.
Concordia Prep, which captured consecutive B Conference titles in 2018 and 2019, is a program growing up fast. The Saints are now 2-2 in league play, following up their first league win against Mount Saint Joseph last week with more impressive work on Wednesday in sending the Dons to a 0-3-2 mark in the early season.
“It means a lot obviously — very proud of the guys today,” said Concordia Prep coach Adauto Neto. “If you told us in the beginning of the season that we would be .500 against four of the top teams, people would question that. But we’re all working hard, everybody is putting the effort in, we’re sticking to the game plan and today we came out with a lot of energy.”
That early energy by the Saints turned into a stunning early advantage when Yuri Bruga pressured a turnover and sent the ball across to Calheira, who finished promptly from 15 yards just 25 seconds in.
The Dons’ early-season frustration continued as they controlled large stretches of play, but couldn’t finish off any scoring chances. Trailing and pressing, the visitors were more susceptible to the Saints’ counter-attacks, and the home team made them pay when Calheira made it 2-0 in the 18th minute by putting away another chance from the right side.
With their defense holding steady — junior goalie Colton Drought made 11 saves and junior center back Mikkiel Graham proved sturdy in front of him — the Saints put the game away with goals from Calheira and Braga two minutes apart just before the midway point of the second half. While the Saints may not have the same depth as some of the more established teams in the league, they are showing they can make up for it with a tight-knit group that plays hard and tireless for each other.
“Honestly, I’m just really proud of the boys. We’re getting up there and it’s cool to get our name out there with the way we play and show that a small school can hang out with the big guys,” said Calheira. “I think it’s our hard work. We play as a team, work as a team. It’s crazy to see how all these other teams have a full line on the bench and we come out with like three kids on the bench. I think it’s just our work ethic — we’re playing really well out there.”
Despite the early success, Neto still wants his Saints to treat each time out like it’s a championship game while they continue to get a footing in the league.
“Baby steps, baby steps — got to be humble,” he said. “We always talk to the boys that for everyone, we’re the underdogs and we have to be humble.”
For the Dons, a perennial league power that has a largely new cast, the key will be staying on course to make things turn in their favor. On Wednesday, they played hard, possessed the ball well and created chances — earning ten corner kicks — but weren’t able to break through with a timely goal.
“We’re just going through a bad patch right now. We’re controlling a lot of the games, we’re creating a lot of opportunities, but, at the end of the day, you’ve got to put it in the back of the net,” said Loyola coach Lee Tschantret. “We all go through tough times right? So we won’t change the way we play. If we’re not creating chances, if we’re not controlling the flow of play, then you’ve got to look to change things. But we’re creating enough, we’re controlling it, so it’s just kind of sticking to that belief and sticking to your system and waiting for it to turn around.”
Concordia Prep hosts John Carroll at 4 p.m. Friday, while Loyola looks for its first win at Spalding Saturday at 11 a.m.
Goals: LB — Cole, Molina; CP — Calheira 3, Braga
Assists: LB — Romero; CP — Braga, Levenson
Saves: LB — Eckman 3, Medvetz 2; CP — Drought 11
Half: CP, 2-0