October 09, 2012
St. Benedict’s was primed to be picked off by the “Trap Game.”
Coming off a game just two nights earlier against a fierce rival, the Gray Bees could have experienced a letdown. But coach Jim Wandling wasn’t about to let it go unsaid.
“That was the talk of the locker room beforehand,” said Wandling. “You have a tendency to relax after a rivalry game. But we made sure our guys were well aware of it.”
The conversation seemed to work.
St. Benedict’s, just 48 hours removed from an emotionally-charged victory over Scotch Plains before a packed house, returned to NJIT’s Lubetkin Field before a barebones crowd and posted a workmanlike, 4-0, victory over Monroe on Monday night.
With the victory, the Gray Bees won for the 48th straight outing, matching the second longest winning streak in St. Benedict’s history and third best in New Jersey annals. The Gray Bees’ mark of 56 games without a loss or tie from 1997 through ’99 tops the all-time state list, while Timothy Christian of Middlesex County is second on that standard at 51 games (1988-’90).
St. Benedict’s, coincidentally, halted Timothy Christian’s streak in 1990 with a 13-1 victory over the school from Piscataway en route to its first winning skein of 48 games from ’89 through ’90.
“We don’t really talk about the streak a lot because we just focus on one game at a time,” said senior captain Spencer Hambleton. “But all the players are aware of it and we’re feeling pretty as a team because of the streak of good teams that we just beat.”
Hambleton was referring to the incredible four-game stretch which just concluded against a very good Monroe team on Monday. Before that whitewash, SBP had also shutout three previously-unbeaten teams, including a 1-0 victory Saturday night over Scotch Plains, the top-ranked public school in New Jersey.
“Something has to be said about picking off the four teams we just did without giving up a goal,” said Wandling. “It’s a testament to our guys, who’ve been getting it done under highly-pressurized situations game-in and game out.”
The Gray Bees took some time to get their collective footing against Monroe, but once they broke through on Angel Josue Espana’s goal with 25 minutes elapsed, the tide was firmly entrenched on its side.
Espana’s goal, his ninth of the season off a nice pass at the top of the box from John Antunes, who broke the defense down after a cross-field pass from Miguel Alves, started a string of three goals of the final 15 minutes of the half.
Gio Giammatteo got into action three minutes later when he raced onto a long downfield pass from Alves, who split the defense off a strike from his own end of the field. Giammatteo notched his third goal of the campaign by touching the ball past a charging goalkeeper.
Auro Patnaik completed the first-half surge with a tremendous strike from 30 yards out, in which the ball didn’t slow down until hitting the back of the net, settling in the top right corner of the goal. Michael Olla completed the scoring in the final minutes of the game with his team-leading 14th tally.
“This was our most difficult stretch of the season,” said Wandling of the last four games. “We can’t let up, though, and I’m sure (the players) are aware of the streak. But we have not talked about chasing any records.”
Notes: The Gray Bees, which stand 11th on the National all-tme list for consecutive victories, play its final night game 7 p.m. on Wednesday against Hun at NJIT. And after a road game on Saturday in Pennsylvania against Central Dauphin, SBP plays its final six games at home. If Wandling’s team wins out, they will match the school record with 56 successive victories.
“The only streak we are interested at the moment is going 1-0 in our next match,” said Wandling. “That is the way it has been since Week 1.”