By Jeremy Balan
St. Ignatius has received most of the early acclaim in the winter boys soccer season, but after Sacred Heart Cathedral’s 2-0 win over Valley Christian of San Jose in both teams’ West Catholic Athletic League opener at Kimbell Playground on Saturday, there may be another WCAL contender lurking in The City.
The Irish (3-0-1) dictated play for most of the match and got a solid contribution from their back line of Jack Harrington, Cesar Martinez, Daniel O’Shea and Gianmichael Santiumauro, which held the visiting Warriors (0-3) without a shot on net.
“Our guys stayed focused throughout, which really makes it easy for us,” said Sacred Heart head coach Jeff Wilson. “They’re a tight-knit group in the back and we don’t make many subs, so I think they’re gelling well and it’s good to get another shutout.”
The Sacred Heart defense has been impressive in its first four games, allowing just one goal in the early season, but the Irish attack also showed promise Saturday.
Sophomore William Velasco opened up the scoring with a goal in the 29th minute, on a header off a lobbed cross from fellow sophomore Oscar Reyes.
Velasco was involved with the second goal as well, as he drew a foul in the penalty area that led to a penalty-kick goal from junior Jonathan Rojas to seal the win in the 73rd minute.
Even though the Sacred Heart goals came from other types of plays, the Irish got most of their opportunities off corner kicks. They hit the post twice on headers off corner kicks in the second half and had several near-misses in the first half as well.
“We work on set pieces a lot and [corner kicks] are part of it,” Wilson said. “In high school and even in college, about 50 percent of the goals scored are on set pieces and it’s something that should aid us moving through the season.”
Sacred Heart appeared to have control throughout the game, but Valley Christian was not bereft of opportunities. The biggest push from the Warriors came midway through the first half, but their attack could not break through against the Irish defense.
“From a soccer standpoint, I think we are good enough to compete with anybody, but for us the challenge is being mentally strong,” said first-year Valley Christian coach Erik Gaspar. “Sacred Heart does a good job and they’re very organized, but I thought the game could have gone either way.”
With the win, the Irish remain unbeaten, but their schedule will not get easier as the brutal WCAL season progresses.
“It’s only going to get tougher,” said Wilson, who is in his 11th year at the helm of the varsity program. “We’re going to have to take care of certain games and every game is going to be difficult. As long as we keep getting better with each game, we’ll be in a good spot.”