The St. Mary’s boys’ soccer team lost its first BSAL game of the season Friday, falling 1-0 to rival Kennedy in Berkeley.
Kennedy midfielder Daniel Perez scored the only goal of a fast, physical game in the 35th minute, taking a throw-in at the top of the St. Mary’s box and turning on one touch to hammer the ball past St. Mary’s goalkeeper Nick Osborne.
“It was just a momentary lapse in communication,” St. Mary’s head coach Teale Matteson said of Perez’s freedom on the play. “One player though another had (Perez), and the other thought the opposite.”
While the loss at least momentarily knocked the Panthers (10-11-1, 5-1-1 BSAL) from the top of the league standings, they still have a good shot at finishing in the top two and earning a first-round playoff bye. Last year’s team just missed a bye, finishing in third place, and were upset in the first round by St. Joseph.
“It’s pretty important to get a bye, if just to get some extra practice and rest,” Matteson said. “But we’ve got two tough opponents to play, so nothing’s guaranteed. All the games are now crucial.”
St. Mary’s still has games against Piedmont and St. Patrick left on the regular season schedule. Piedmont is one of the league’s top teams, while St. Patrick tied Kennedy earlier this season, so they aren’t likely to be an easy touch.
Another reason a bye would help the Panthers is to help them get healthy. Nearly every starter on the team has missed at least one game due to injury or illness, and Matteson knows he’ll need a full squad to advance through the BSAL playoffs.
“We’re starting to get healthy,” said Matteson, who had just two players sidelined for Friday’s game, a season-low. “But we’ve still got a couple of guys limping around out there.”
St. Mary’s offense looked hobbled against Kennedy, getting off just five shots. They played long ball for most of the game, an ineffective strategy against Kennedy sweeper Giovanni Mejia, one of the league’s best players. Mejia constantly turned back Panther attacks, covering the field from sideline to sideline. Anything that got past Mejia ended up in the hands of goalkeeper Oscar Rivera. Following Perez’s goal, both Bryan Warren and Pat McMahon managed shots from awkward angles that Rivera saved fairly easily.
“They have a strong goalkeeper, and he did a good job today,” Matteson said. “And Giovanni cleaned up the back the way he’s supposed to.”
The Panthers didn’t put much pressure on Mejia and Rivera in the second half, with the goalie making two saves. McMahon had the best chance for St. Mary’s, getting a cross from Sean Rogan in the Kennedy box, but his shot went wide under pressure.