By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
CHESTER, Pa. — It turns out the St. Augustine Prep boys soccer team isn’t all that fond of losing games.
Since a 3-0 loss at Delran on Sept. 11, the Hermits have been on a roll, winning eight straight, including back-to-back wins over Ocean City — a team that was undefeated before meeting St. Augustine last week — in which Prep outscored the Red Raiders 9-2. The latest victory was a 4-1 triumph on Monday night at Subaru Park, home of the Philadelphia Union.
The Hermits would have impressed their MLS heroes had the Union been on hand, as Prep displayed tactical soccer that featured precision and — most importantly — hustle. As senior Brian Sharkey explained, that loss to Delran served as a wake-up call to this team that they can’t just roll the ball out there and expect to get wins because they wear Navy blue and white.
“That loss was definitely tough. That was a big game and it just didn’t go our way. I thought we fought hard all the way to the end, it just didn’t fall our way and sometimes that’s going to happen,” Sharkey said. “But we bounced back with a big win over Salesianum (Del., on Sept. 21) and we’ve been moving ever since. We just realized we weren’t good enough to just walk by teams and we had to work for it every single day. Nothing is given to us. We know every single team we play is going to be competitive with us and we just can’t come out here and not be ready.”
Sharkey got things started for the Hermits (9-1, 7-0 Cape-Atlantic League National Conference) in the 17th minute when he helped Prep take advantage of an Ocean City turnover just outside the box. He first looked to go outside but then cut it back in and from just outside the 18 he drilled a shot into the upper left corner for a 1-0 St. Augustine Prep lead.
“I got a ball slipped to me but I didn’t have a shot with it out wide so I cut inside and took a shot from my left foot and put it into the top corner. It was a good way to start the game. It felt good coming off my foot and I was pretty confident it was going to go in. I’m just glad we started off the game the right way and that allowed us to get going,” Sharkey said. “We knew we had to get an early start and get goals so we could put the pressure on them. We were moving the ball the whole time and we wanted to be aggressive on every single ball. We wanted it more. They are definitely a tough team and they have a lot of good players on their team but I think we came prepared, both times we played them. We knew what it was going to take to win those games and we came in ready. We worked hard and came away with good results.”
If Ocean City (7-2, 6-2 CAL National) had any thoughts of pulling the upset they were dashed just two minutes later when star forward Aidan Davis put Prep up 2-0 on a low shot into the right corner off a direct kick just outside the 18-yard line. In the 26th minute the Hermits effectively put the game on ice when Ethan Torpey took a long pass down the right side from Shane Clancy and beat a defender before depositing a shot into the lower left and a 3-0 lead.
The Red Raiders got one back in the 37th minute when Kai Lindsay scored on a direct kick from 25 yards out that was deflected in, but Prep got that one back in the 59th minute when Clancy scored off a header from a direct kick on the right side by Torpey.
“We’re rolling, playing together as a team, playing how we want to,” Clancy said. “We have a good work rate and we love to win the ball from great quickness, and everything kind of runs through that. We still want to work on our attacking. We want to score more goals.”
“This team is great. We push every game. We know we had one game against Delran that we should have won, but we take that and move on and you can see the rest of the season we’ve been grinding and grinding, and that’s been resulting in wins. We don’t give up and we’re going to keep pushing throughout the season, and hopefully win a state championship,” said senior Patrick Earnest. “Our philosophy is to work harder than the other team. It’s not always about talent — whoever can work the hardest usually is going to win the game.”
Prep has a tough game coming up on Wednesday as the Hermits travel to Holy Ghost Prep of Pennsylvania, but judging by the way the Hermits have handled their business the past few weeks they’re ready for anything.
“I think we have a lot of good pieces. We have a lot of senior leadership and young guys who can play in the middle, play out wide. I think this team, when we work together and are on our ‘A’ game, we’re really tough to beat,” Sharkey said. “I think we have a bright future the rest of the year, but we still have to keep working hard. There’s a lot of season left to go. We want to win the league and the coaches tournament, and eventually states, so we have to keep working every single day to get better.”
Getting a chance to pick up a win over a big CAL rival at a pro stadium was just icing on the cake on Monday evening.
“It’s our first time playing in a pro stadium and it was a great experience, a great atmosphere,” Clancy said. “It’s crazy to think that professional players are on this field and I got to step onto the same field as them.”
Added Earnest, “It’s amazing. I would have never dreamed of playing on this field, especially watching the Union play a few weeks ago. To play on the same field as them and to experience the same thing as them is phenomenal.”
What’s next: St. Augustine Prep travels to Holy Ghost Prep (Pa.) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Ocean City travels to Cedar Creek today at 4 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays