October 20, 2012
Ezequiel Cei came from a program where his play much of the time predicated how his team would fare.
But at St. Benedict’s, like so many players who’ve starred in other lineups, he’s just another piece of the puzzle – albeit, at times, a very important one.
Cei, a junior, who came to The Hive by way of Elizabeth, scored a much-needed second goal to help lift the Gray Bees past Maryland's Walt Whitman, 4-0, on Saturday for its 51st straight victory.
The victory matched the second longest winning streak in New Jersey annals and leaves only in the way the 56-game streak that St. Benedict’s registered from 1997 through ’99, under then-coach Rick Jacobs.
“I don’t think the streak has saddled us with any extra pressure,” said St. Benedict’s coach Jim Wandling, whose team just matched the mark of 51 games established by Timothy Christian (1988-'90). “In fact, we use it as a source of motivation to stay focused on the next game at hand.”
Focusing in the game at hand is exactly what the Gray Bees did against a formidable Walt Whitman side. Wandling’s club needed only 95 seconds to score the game’s first goal.
Angel Josue Espana split two defenders with a cross-field pass to Juan Parada, who carried the ball into the right side of the box and unleashed a quick shot for the first strike.
The Gray Bees, however, didn’t build off that momentum and went into a little funk, which was part of their own doing and the hustling play of the side from Maryland. That was until Cei gave them the pivotal second goal.
Defender Miguel Alves started a nice counter from his own end and carried the ball into the offensive third and played a long through ball to Cei. The forward, who was looking for the pass to go wide, readjusted his stride and stepped in front of the defender and touched the ball forward and cracked a shot that darted just inside the left post in the 29th minute.
“We were hoping to get the second one much sooner but Walt Whitman, to their credit, made it tough on us,” said Wandling. “Cei made a great play on the ball and gave us the very important second goal. He was a fantastic spark for the team today.”
The goal was the second of the year for Cei, who still finds it difficult as a reserve off the bench, as opposed to last year when he was a focal point for Elizabeth and wound up with All-Union County honors for The Star-Ledger.
“It’s been hard not playing as much,” admitted Cei. “It is so competitive here at St. Benedict’s. But we are all like family, so when you do get your turn, every one pulls for you and you have to do your best with every opportunity.
Cei’s goal ignited the attack once again for the Gray Bees, which upped the cushion to three goals by the halftime break when another bench payer, Dominic Harrington, also came through with his second score of the year. Harrington, a senior, received a cross from Auro Patnaik, made a nice one-two touch on the ball for his goal moments after being inserted into the game.
Patnaik also set up the final score near the end of the contest after a restart from the right end line. His low, lining cross found its way through the crowd in front of the goal and popped out to Espana, who powered a shot home for his 10th goal of the campaign.
“It was a good win and I’m glad I was able to help the team out today,” said Cei. “I haven’t played as much as I’ve like, but I am a much better player than when I got here. I just hope I can keep giving the team a lift.”
Notes: Wandling’s club is still playing stifling defense – yielding only 2 shots on goal against Walt Whitman, while posting its 14th shutout in 15 games. The Gray Bees have now outscored the opposition this season, 66-1.
SBP now takes on St. Augustine 4 p.m. Wednesday back at NJIT for the second-ever regular season meeting between the two clubs. SBP won last year’s initial foray, 2-0, down in Richland (Atlantic County).
--By Ron Jandoli