The St. Paul’s Wolves are the top-ranked soccer team in Louisiana and also in the U.S., according to the MaxPreps website.
While the team has averaged more than three goals per game this season, a large reason for the lofty accolades has been the defense, which had allowed only 12 goals in 28 games.
Make that 29 games.
Though St. Paul’s took 21 shots Tuesday evening in a Division I home quarterfinal playoff against New Iberia, it was the Wolves’ defense that really rose to the occasion against the Yellow Jackets. A smothering defense effort, not to mention a relentless offense, eventually helped the top seed win a 2-0 match against the eighth seed.
St. Paul’s (25-1-3) next will face the winner of fourth-seeded Jesuit and 12th-seeded Catholic-Baton Rouge in a semifinal. That match also will be played at Hunter Stadium in Covington, likely on Saturday.
New Iberia finished its season 16-4.
The Wolves controlled possession from the opening whistle, but they couldn’t break through in the first half against a tenacious New Iberia defense. The Yellow Jackets jammed the box and challenged virtually every ball that came close to their net. The open shots St. Paul’s did have early either sailed high and/or wide of the mark, or were stopped by the New Iberia back line.
St. Paul’s finally got on the board in the 58th minute when Justin Savoie booted a shot into the New Iberia box. Colin Ross received it, and punched a header into the top right corner to break the scoreless tie.
St. Paul’s outshot New Iberia 21-1 overall.
“I thought we were dominating the whole match,” Ross said. “I thought it was just a matter of the final pass. It came down to a couple scenarios where it (the pass) was too fast, too hard, not the right ball, maybe we could have switched it earlier. We finally broke through late in the second half, but I guess it was just determination to finally find that final pass that we’ve been (finding) all year.”
St. Paul’s coach Sean Moser said he was impressed with the defense and offense, and he said the scoring margin could have been much greater. Nick Isolani scored the Wolves’ only other goal on a penalty kick from the New Iberia box in the final seconds.
“Early in the game, like the first 20 minutes, we got around them, or shot it over, or shot it to the keeper, shot it wide,” Moser said. “If we were more clinical (with our offensive precision), that could have been two (goals for us) at the half, and five (for us) at the end of the game.”
New Iberia coach Fafadji Acouetey said he knew the Yellow Jackets were facing a formidable opponent Tuesday, even though they were able to disrupt the Wolves’ scoring prowess for a good while.
“They’re a good team,” Acouetey said. “I’m not going to lie. We knew they were going to come after us. … But we played our game and did what we’re supposed to do. But they got what they needed to, and they (took) it.”