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‘We were just happy to play’: Mount Saint Joseph soccer team savors unique undefeated season

Mount Saint Joseph's Van Danielson, left, celebrates with teammate Tyquan Stroud after Stroud scored during a game against John Carroll on Nov. 6.
Mount Saint Joseph's Van Danielson, left, celebrates with teammate Tyquan Stroud after Stroud scored during a game against John Carroll on Nov. 6. (Ulysses Muñoz)

The record will show that the Mount Saint Joseph soccer team went undefeated and untied in its 2020 season, averaging more than four goals per game while limiting opponents to less than one.

And while the Gaels, featuring 18 seniors and a sprinkle of quality underclassmen, weren’t able to secure the finish they had long set out to reach after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the typical Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association season, they still found themselves appreciative.

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The makeshift Catholic League, featuring five other MIAA schools and a 10-game schedule that was halted after eight games because of the recent coronavirus spike, gave the Gaels a chance to get on the field together one last time.

Going 8-0 in games against rivals Calvert Hall, Loyola Blakefield, Archbishop Curley, Archbishop Spalding and John Carroll, the Gaels scored a whopping 34 goals and allowed just seven with three shutouts.

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“I think we all learned you just have to take whatever opportunities are given to you. Not everything is going to come out the way you want it to, but you have to stay positive, stay confident and be ready to take what is given to you,” senior tri-captain Van Danielson said. “I was proud of the guys. We worked hard every day during practice and we really set ourselves up well every game. We scored a lot of goals, defended well as a team and it was a great season for us.”

The Gaels can confidently say that they made the most of their final time playing together.

In all, 12 players scored at least one goal and 16 recorded a goal or an assist.

Danielson (eight goals, five assists), fellow senior captain Tyquan Stroud (four goals, five assists), senior Miles Lam (four goals, four assists), and juniors Brian St. Martin (four goals, one assist) and Aidan Louden (four goals) sparked the balanced offense. Senior goalkeepers Dominic Jones and Joel Fenstermacher effectively shared duties in the net with strong support from a defensive unit led by senior center backs Jackson Simons and Sean Thompson.

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“Everybody on the team came together, everybody worked hard and I think everybody had impactful moments during the games,” said Simons, a captain.

One question will always linger among the tight senior-laden group: What if?

What if there been a normal MIAA season, one that included defending champion McDonogh and other teams that chose not to play this fall? Could the Gaels have brought home the program’s fourth league championship and first since 2009?

“We all wanted to have our shot at an MIAA title,” Danielson said. “After losing in the title game of my freshman year, that was always a huge goal of mine. So it was disappointing not to get the chance to do that, especially with how talented our team was. But we were just happy to play.”

The Gaels have memories from the season that can’t be taken away.

Stroud scoring in overtime to get past Loyola Blakefield, 3-2. Danielson finishing with a hat trick in a big win at Curley. All the camaraderie that took place during practices and games.

A 5-0 win at Spalding on Nov. 20 turned out to be the team’s final game before the remainder of the schedule was canceled.

In the end, Calvert Hall’s 4-2 mark was second best, with the Gaels owning two wins against the Cardinals.

“We definitely consider ourselves champions and I felt like we played like champions,” Stroud said. “From the first person to the last person on the team, we all gave our 100%. We knew we could beat everyone and we didn’t just think about it, we went out there and actually did it.”

On Saturday, the Gaels celebrated their senior class with an intrasquad scrimmage that fittingly ended tied at 4, showcasing the team’s depth. Banners and balloons were given to each senior and their parents were able to walk out on the field with their sons. Coach Mike St. Martin provided play-by-play of the game with a cordless microphone on the field.

“I told the boys, in all this craziness we’ve had, one thing we learned is that we have to be flexible and make the best of it and I think that’s what we did on Saturday,” he said. “It’s not typical of what we do for Senior Day, but everybody enjoyed it, so it was a good conclusion of the season.”

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