By Steve Millar
In a three-minute span late in regulation of a scoreless game against Mount Carmel on Thursday, St. Laurence had one shot go off the crossbar and put and another blast off the post.
Rather than get discouraged by the near misses, the Vikings felt their momentum building and were confident they would score.
“After the first crossbar, then the post, we knew it was coming,” St. Laurence junior Jessie Cardiel said. “We knew we were on their backs. We just had to get that last touch and get it in the goal.”
It was Cardiel who did just that, heading in Thomas Suchecki’s corner kick with 9 minutes, 41 seconds left to lift St. Laurence to a 1-0 win over host Mount Carmel in a Catholic League Blue match.
“This whole season, Thomas has been giving me some great balls,” Cardiel said. “If there was a sport for set-piece deliveries, he’d be the state champ. He’s got a lot of those and it’s helped us throughout all these games.
“I knew he would play a good ball in, so I just went to that open space and the ball was there.”
The win kept St. Laurence (10-1, 5-1) alive in the Catholic Blue chase. The Vikings were set to root for Mount Carmel, for they needed the Caravan (6-1, 3-1) to knock off Loyola (5-0 in conference) on Saturday to earn share of the conference title.
“We’re their fan Saturday,” St. Laurence coach Kyle Boekeloo said. “We told the boys that the chase is real and we have Loyola’s jersey in our hands, but if they go undefeated in this conference, hats off to them. All the pressure is on them.”
St. Laurence surged in the second half against the Caravan. Pedro Pantoja fired a shot off the crossbar with 14:30 to go and Andres Lemus fired a line drive from 25 yards along the left side of the field that rocketed off the right post and out with 11:15 left.
On their fourth corner kick, the Vikings cashed in.
“I saw Jessie in the middle and I just put it in the box,” Suchecki said. “When I saw it hit the back of the net, I just started running and celebrating with my team.”
Mount Carmel started fast and had a couple good looks in the opening 10 minutes as Nadim Gomez and Daniel Miller both fired shots just high.
“I told the boys at halftime that Mount Carmel came out throwing punches,” Boekeloo said. “We took a couple. We were lucky to be 0-0 after 10 minutes. Then, we slowly started figuring it out, getting into our game plan and executing.
“You slowly started to see things change, and we started building more and more momentum in the second half.”
Damian Ascencio made five saves to record the shutout for the Vikings, with plenty of help from Brenton DuBoise, Valente Lara and Tony Moreno on the back line.
Ernesto Hernandez made three saves for Mount Carmel.
“I think it was a great effort by both teams,” Mount Carmel coach Antonio Godinez said. “You have to give it to St. Laurence. They had the hunger. They wanted it more. It came down to who was going to put one away and it was as simple as that.”