A dedication to beautiful soccer carried the St. Anthony boys to the CIF Southern Section Division 7 quarterfinal round on Friday, but an inability to stick to that game plan spelled disaster for the Saints. Grace Brethren used long passes over the top to unlock the St. Anthony defense on its way to a 3-0 win.
“We want to have possession, move the ball into spaces and manipulate the other team’s shape,” St. Anthony coach Aaron Rodriguez said. “Instead, we got stuck into the long ball that they play. It’s not our game. We just couldn’t adapt quickly enough.”
St. Antony finished 12-8-2 overall and reached the quarterfinals for just the second time in school history.
“We didn’t even have a field to practice on and a lot of people didn’t think we’d get this far,” senior Ryan Norried said. “I don’t even think that at the beginning of the season we thought we would get this far. We’re proud of where we finished. This is a group to be proud of and we’re all proud of each other.”
“The senior class was the cornerstone of this whole team,” Rodriguez said. “They held this team together and kept us pushing every game.”
St. Anthony started the game on the front foot by working the ball into the channels early. Norried, junior Andrew Kamienski and senior Gabriel Suarez took the first three shots of the game for the Saints, but the fourth and fifth shot put Grace Brethren on the scoreboard.
In the 21st minute against the run of play, Grace Brethren junior Jeremy Larson gathered a long ball forward in stride, cut across the top of the box and took a shot that was deflected down. He quickly changed directions and scored with a strong near side shot.
Junior Jacob Haskill nearly pulled St. Anthony even in the 29th minute but his attempt was saved by Grace Brethren goalkeeper Trevor Quinn. The sophomore needed two saves for the clean sheet. St. Anthony junior goalkeeper Blake Collins made seven saves.
St. Anthony senior Matthew Gonzalez cleared a shot off the line in the 34th minute to keep it a one-goal game at halftime, but Grace Brethren scored again in the 44th minute through senior Josh Interiano.
Grace Brethren scored its third goal in the 70th minute on a beautiful long back post cross from Jeremy Larson to freshman Tyler Larson.
“I think we got too sucked into playing their game and it got away from us,” Norried said. “I think if we played our game today the outcome would’ve been a lot different.”
St. Anthony beat Avalon and CAMS by a combined score of 8-3 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and won 10 of its last 12 games.
“I want to make sure this program gets to this sort of (level in the postseason) and then moves forward from there,” Rodriguez said. “Now it’s about making this the goal and pushing past it.”