Until Friday night Daniel Occupati hadn’t quite felt himself on a soccer field.
The Catholic High junior was recovering from an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for three months through the club season. Because of a loss of muscle and conditioning while sitting out, he never managed to play the way he used to even once he returned to the field for the Bears.
Fortunately for Catholic, that changed when the top team in the latest Louisiana High School Soccer Coaches Association Division II coaches poll came to town for a major, nondistrict clash.
Occupati scored both Bears' goals to lift Catholic to a 2-0 victory over Holy Cross on Friday night.
He said it was the first time in a while he’s felt anywhere close to his full ability.
“I was in the right place at the right time for those two goals,” Occupati said. “I didn’t do too much. I give all the credit to the team. I was just there in the right time and at the right spot to finish it.”
Both teams generated offense slowly in the first half with the ball floating around midfield most of the time.
The only serious threat was Occupati’s first goal in the 29th minute, when he took a cross from Ben Katzenmeyer for a header to the far post.
Occupati struck again in the second half. Again off a cross, although this time it was from Patrick Mensah who slipped a ball through the Holy Cross backline where Occupati picked up a missed clearance inside the penalty box.
Catholic (6-0-1) put a few more shots on frame in the closing minutes once the win was well in hand. The Bears outshot the Tigers 12-7, including 6-3 in shots on goal.
Catholic goalkeeper Patrick Riley was credited with the shutout.
Catholic entered the game as the No. 2 team in Division l behind No. 1 St. Paul’s and one point above No. 3 St. Amant.
“For me it was guys getting in good situations and executing well,” Catholic coach Josh McReynolds said. “That’s pretty much it.”
Holy Cross (5-2-1) coach Stuart Hayers was concerned with the the Tigers' ability to generate offense even before Friday night, and nothing happened in the 80 minutes played did much to change his mind.
Holy Cross didn’t have a serious threat on goal until late into the second half and by then Occupati had already struck twice.
And while the Tigers did a good job of limiting Catholic’s chances on goal in the first half, they eventually tired late.
“We’re very good at the back. We have a lot of freshman that are playing a lot of minutes, our goalkeeper is one of the best in the state and I’m confident we’ll be tough to beat,” Hayers said. “How we’re going to score goals will always be an issue.”