By Jeremy Balan
The faces on the field may have been the same, but the St. Ignatius boys’ soccer team didn’t resemble the team that won the West Catholic Athletic League title just six days prior to their 2-0 loss to visiting Leigh of San Jose in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs on Wednesday.
The 12th-seeded Longhorns (11-6-4), which finished fourth in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Mt. Hamilton Division, controlled the pace of the game and opportunities early, while fifth-seeded St. Ignatius (15-6-2) was flat on both ends of the field, ending their season unceremoniously.
“It was the same as last year. We get into CCS and have our worst game of the year,” St. Ignatius coach Sean-Michael Callahan said. “Their effort was just better than ours, and you can’t get this late in the season and not put everything on the field.”
The Wildcats didn’t garner a substantial opportunity in the first half, while the dynamic and quick-striking Longhorns applied significant pressure and scored in the 15th minute on a header from senior Mark Salcido off a corner kick from Thomas Murdick.
Immediately after the halftime break, the Wildcats’ struggles continued, as the Longhorns tacked on an insurance goal in the 45th minute, when senior Nick Logsdon slid to send a low crossing pass past St. Ignatius goalkeeper Rueben Young.
St. Ignatius would pick up offensively after Leigh’s second goal, going on a frantic run where they sent six shots on goal in the final 23 minutes, but the Wildcats just couldn’t break through.
“The win against Bellarmine [in the WCAL championship game] was such an emotional skyrocket,” Callahan said. “For 16-, 17-year-old kids to come back from that and try to manufacture some energy is tough.”
The Wildcats’ attack showed life late, but it was a constant struggle for the defense. Leigh’s agile midfielders pestered St. Ignatius throughout, but often it was the Wildcats’ inability to clear the ball from their half of the field that led to Longhorns opportunities.
“We were poor with possession, but it was a credit to their effort. They kept stepping in front of our guys and taking the ball away,” Callahan said. “While we weren’t playing very well, they were just playing better.”
Murdick and sophomore Josue Mendosa led the Longhorns’ midfield, distributing the ball deftly and cutting down St. Ignatius’ counter attempts with relative ease, but while the result might be unexpected to some, don’t count Leigh head coach Frank von Rassler in that category.
“To be blunt, [I expected this result],” von Rassler said. “We didn’t know anything about St. Ignatius coming in, but I know my guys. We’re going to be dangerous in this tournament because we’re a team that no one knows about. You could be an invalid and coach this team. That’s how good they are.”