In a showdown between two of the top boys’ soccer teams in District 4-I, Conner Walmsley’s goal in the second half proved to be the game-winner as St. Paul’s defeated Northshore on the road 1-0.
The first half was a slug fest, with both teams playing tough defense and not allowing many scoring chances.
Second-ranked St. Paul's had the only two shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, but both were saved by Northshore keeper Austin Dunlap. Dunlap finished the game with five saves on six chances.
While the fourth-ranked Panthers had the ball on the St. Paul's side of the field for a good bit of the first half, they never could get a clean shot on goal. Two cross-field shots went wide and a free kick from 20 yards out in the 37th minute went high and over the goal, leaving the scored tied at 0-0 at intermission.
The beginning of the second half looked like more of the same as Northshore had a shot on goal stopped by Wolves’ goalie Trace Roberts and also missed a chance to score on a throw-in that was headed over the crossbar in the 48th minute.
St. Paul's took advantage of the miss, sailing down the field, and Walmsley found the back of the net in the 50th minute.
Walmsley said the Wolves knew the game was going to be a battle.
"We knew this team was right up there with us," he said. "They are good every year. We knew it was going to be a tough game, and hats off to them or keeping it close. We look forward to seeing them again."
Walmsley said the fact that most of the players are friends off the field and play together on club teams helps when they meet as opponents.
"It only makes it better," he said. "It's means more and it's good competition."
Northshore had two shots on goal stopped by Roberts in the next 15 minutes, while St. Paul's missed on two shots of its own in the last two minutes that would have extended the lead.
The Panthers had two more chances to tie the game in the final 10 minutes. Fernando Trujillo had a 30-yard free kick in the 71st minute but kicked it high and over the net. Then in stoppage time, Mateo Villanueva tried to ease in a corner kick but had the ball knocked away by a St. Paul's defender to essentially ice the game.
St. Paul’s coach Sean Moser said he liked the way his team handled to tough competition and the less-than-ideal playing surface.
"I thought their size and the field conditions would be an issue," he said. "The field held up well enough and I thought we were better on the ball than they were.
"And then even with their size, they didn't really get a good, clear header. We challenged every first ball and usually won the second and got it back up the field. So, we defended them well."
Northshore coach Ryan Lazaroe was disappointed with the outcome, but proud of his team's effort.
"Both teams had some decent chances," he said. "I think in terms of shots, we weren't that far behind.
"It was a good goal and I'll give them credit for that, but other than that it was a very open game and we were just as close as they were, but we have to move on."