The ball didn’t spend much time in Gilman’s or Mount Saint Joseph’s penalty area in Friday’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference soccer opener.
So when Gilman senior midfielder Costi Karakousis suddenly found the ball at his feet on the right side with just under eight minutes left to play, he stayed composed and wasted no time.
Karakousis perfectly placed a shot from 14 yards to the left corner giving host and No. 7 Greyhounds the offensive breakthrough they needed to secure a 1-0 win over the visiting Gaels.
Gilman now has three cleans sheets in its 2-0-1 start with goalie Grant Farley earning the shutout with three saves.
Deep in the game and still scoreless, the margin of error is magnified along with the nerves when provided a rare opportunity. Karakousis didn’t show any nervousness after a long throw wasn’t able to be cleared by the Gaels. His first varsity goal was indeed a big one.
“The whole game we were struggling to get it up there, but I knew if once we got the chance we would bury one,” he said. “It just perfectly came to my feet it and I just saw the goal and finished. It’s great — there’s no feeling like it. All the fans we had out today were great and celebrating with my teammates was great.”
The Gaels were playing their season opener and had some good moments with quality possessions. But their only considerable scoring threat came early in the second half when Van Danielson sent an ideal cross in front from the right side. Miles Lam and Alex Crabbe both crashed the goal area and one of them sent a header that went off the side post.
“It doesn’t matter how much possession you may have, if you don’t put the ball in the back of the net in soccer, [you’re not going to win] — that’s the name of the game. Credit to them, but it’s also disappointing,” said Mount Saint Joseph coach Mike St. Martin.
Friday’s tightly contested game may well serve as a microcosm of the entire MIAA A season with more than a handful of teams believing this could be their year.
Defending champion and No. 1 McDonogh has earned the nod as favorite with its experience and talent through the middle of the field, but there’s seemingly a longer list of teams this season capable of pulling through. In addition to McDonogh, Gilman and Mount Saint Joe, No. 3 Calvert Hall, No. 5 Loyola Blakefield and No. 8 Archbishop Curley give the league six of the area’s top 8 teams in The Sun’s top 15 preseason poll.
“I feel like a lot of the league games are going to be like this – they’re going to be really gritty and tough and I think we have the guys here to take care of those kind of games,” he said. “We might not be the prettiest team, but we’re always in games, always going to fight and this game once again proves we can play with anyone.”
With the addition of Boys’ Latin this season, the league will consist of two five-team divisions.
The Red Division will have McDonogh, Archbishop Spalding, Gilman, Mount Saint Joseph and St. Paul’s with the Black Division consisting of Archbishop Curley, Loyola Blakefield, John Carroll, Calvert Hall and Boys’ Latin.
During the regular season, division opponents will play each other twice (home and away) and each team will meet teams from the other division once. The winners of both divisions will receive byes in the opening round of the playoffs before hosting semifinal games. The teams seeded second from each division will host the third seeded teams from the other division in their playoff openers.
“I’ll be able to give more of an accurate assessment once we get more into the schedule, but I’m not a big fan of it right now. I’d like to play everybody twice because I think it’s more equitable and puts teams on more level ground,” Gilman coach Jon Seal said.