For those who might wonder if winning ever gets old, the machine that is the St. Paul’s Wolves boys soccer program would suggest that you think again.
St. Paul’s will begin its quest for a fifth consecutive Division I state championship as a No. 1 seed for a fourth straight season in the LHSAA’s highest classification.
Ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps.com and having outscored their 17 in-Louisiana opponents this season by a 67-1 margin, the Wolves are riding a 22-match winning streak against in-state competition and appear to be a prohibitive favorite to capture their ninth state crown overall and sixth in nine seasons under coach Sean Moser.
“You’ve got a different set of players each year, so to get to watch them celebrate is always exciting,’’ Moser said. “This year is special because it’s my son’s senior year. I pretty much have watched (these players) play for the last nine years.
“We are consistently good because we train at a high level. My coaching staff is very good. And our training level is intense. So usually when we go play an opponent, we are over-prepared.’’
St. Paul’s (22-2-0) has 12 seniors and returns six starters from a 25-4-2 team that defeated Catholic-Baton Rouge, 5-1, in last year’s state final.
Moser’s son, Colin, and fellow seniors, striker Justin Savoie, goalie Kyle Schmitt, center/fullback Mason Robicheaux and defender Cole Knobloch are the Wolves top players.
Savoie and Colin Moser lead the team in goals scored with 21 and 16 respectively. Schmitt is a three-year starter and the team’s lone such senior and Robicheaux is an Appalachian State commitment.
Following their first-round bye, which all of the top eight seeds in all four divisions draw, the Wolves are scheduled to play host to the winner between No. 16 Brother Martin and No. 17 West Monroe in a regional round pairing that must be completed by Feb. 8.
All first-round, bidistrict pairings must be completed by Saturday.
“We’re on the bigger side size-wise,’’ Sean Moser said. “We’re very fast and physical. Most of the boys play together year round on other (club) teams, so they know each other well.’’
Holy Cross (16-3-2) earned the New Orleans area’s other top seeding with a No. 1 slot in Division II in the LHSAA playoffs pairings.
The Tigers are seeking the program’s first state title after advancing to the Division II state semifinals and finals the past two seasons. Holy Cross lost a 1-0 decision to St. Thomas More in the 2016 final.
“The boys seem ready to do something special,’’ said Holy Cross Director of Soccer Stuart Hayers, who shares the varsity coaching responsibilities with associate coach Matt Millet. “But we have the utmost respect for all of the potential opponents in the playoff bracket.
“Hopefully with the first-round bye, we can get in some high-level training sessions and have our players chomping at the bit to play the second-round game.’’
Holy Cross boasts seven returning starters from last year’s state semifinalists, with junior goalie Thomas Dugal, sophomore defender Chad Cadiere, senior midfielders Sebastian Aguilar and Ethan Jones and junior utility player Ethan Garvey leading the way.
Two freshmen, defender Camden Carroll and winger Sinjin Mills, have been other major contributors.
“The greatest strength of this team other than our depth and talent is the experience the boys have had in the playoffs the last two years along with the memory of losing out both years when we really thought we had enough to win it all, Hayers.’’
Northlake Christian (14-1-3) and reigning state champion Newman (14-4-0) are the highest-seeded local teams in the Division IV playoffs at Nos. 3 and 4 respectively while Hannan (7-6-4) is the highest local seed in Division III at No. 15.
The other area teams joining St. Paul’s in the 24-team field of the Division I playoffs are No. 8 Northshore (15-3-3), No. 13 Grace King (14-1-3), No. 15 Jesuit (16-3-4) No. 16 Brother Martin (14-6-6), No. 21 West Jefferson (12-6-1) and No. 22 Covington (10-4-4).
Area teams joining Holy Cross in the Division II playoffs are No. 6 Riverdale (15-0-1), No. 11 East Jefferson (9-8-3), No. 14 Lakeshore (7-8-4), No. 15 Ben Franklin (10-8-4), No. 19 Destrehan (8-4-4) and No. 20 De La Salle (9-5-4).
Destrehan and Lakeshore are scheduled to play in a first-round, bidistrict pairing.
In addition to Hannan, other area teams advancing to the Division III playoffs are No. 21 Pearl River (9-3-4), No. 23 Haynes (6-11-3) and No. 24 New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy (9-4-2).
Besides Northlake Christian and Newman, other area teams qualifying for the Division IV playoffs are No. 11 Country Day (9-8-1) and No. 12 Christ Episcopal of Covington (8-4-5).