The St. Paul’s soccer team can provide plenty of offensive fireworks, as evidenced when they outscored their previous four opponents by a combined 20-0 score.
But on New Year’s Eve in the finals of their 32nd annual St. Paul’s Holiday Invitational, the fuse took a bit of extra time to be lit.
The Wolves, one of the top-ranked boys’ soccer teams in the country, eventually caught fire against Catholic-Baton Rouge in the tournament championship at Hunter Stadium on Wednesday in Covington. The result was a 2-0 victory that improved St. Paul’s record to 17-0-2.
St. Paul’s is the top-ranked Division I team in the state (and in the southeastern U.S., according to at least one national media service). Catholic, also ranked among Louisiana’s top Division I teams, fell to 7-1-4.
But this time against Catholic, it was a much tougher out for St. Paul’s, which defeated the Bears in a scrimmage earlier this season. The difference, both coaches and players said, was St. Paul’s depth and ability to eventually wear down the persistent Catholic defense.
“They seemed to get a bit winded in the second half,” said St. Paul’s senior Eric Guin, who scored the Wolves’ first goal. “The coaches did a good job of subbing a lot. It worked out because (Catholic) played hard.”
St. Paul’s possessed the ball for much of the early minutes but could only squeeze off two shots in the first 15 minutes, those coming by Barrick Roberts from close quarters of the Catholic box, and from 20 yards out by Byron Morgan. Morgan got into the box in the 21st minute, as well, but fired high of his mark.
The Wolves outshot Catholic 6-0 in the first half, and 13-0 in the match — a stat that said as much about the performance of the St. Paul’s defense as it did its high-powered offense.
St. Paul’s got on the scoreboard in the 43rd minute when Andrew Brouillette pushed into the left side of the Catholic defense and passed to his right inside the box. His ball found Guin, who was perched in the right corner of the box for the easy chip shot that made the score 1-0. Davis Neitzschman scored in the 60th minute when he drove deep into the Catholic box and bumped a soft shot that barely rolled into the net.
“I’m happy with the result,” said St. Paul’s coach Sean Moser. “We need to work on that last pass and finishing. But I think we were deeper, and maybe wore (Catholic) down a bit.”
Catholic coach Bo Cassidy agreed.
“Their style of play is fast, and it wears on you after a while,” Cassidy said. “You defend a lot, and it just is a strain. Then, it’s the snowball (effect.)”
Ten of south Louisiana’s top teams participated in the three-day St. Paul’s Holiday Invitational.
The hosts had a pair of 8-0 wins over Baton Rouge High and East Ascension, a 4-0 win over Holy Cross, and a tie against Vandebilt Catholic that eventually sent the Wolves to the tournament final.
Catholic beat Destrehan, Hahnville, and Rummel, and then won on points in a tie against Jesuit to reach the championship match.