September 29, 2012
It was just a matter of time.
The Gray Bees, which barely missed numerous opportunities in the opening half, finally broke through after intermission and posted a dominating, 2-0, effort over one of its chief rivals, Pennington, during a Saturday matinee in Mercer County.
St. Benedict’s (9-0), the top team in the country, ran its winning streak to 45 games – dating back to the middle of the 2010 campaign. Pennington was the first of three straight opponents that come into the game against the Gray Bees without a loss.
“I’m pleased with the way we played. I just wish we could have put a couple away in the first half,” said St. Benedict’s coach Jim Wandling. “We were playing with a lot of confidence, but, at the same time, one mistake and it changes the whole momentum of the game.”
Despite the uneasiness of the coach, St. Benedict’s looked poised from the start against the team it beat for the State Prep Championship in each of the last three seasons. It posted a 9-1 shot advantage in the first half and saw numerous shots by Gio Giammatteo, Angel Josue Espana, Michael Olla and Jon Moraes hit off or just whiz past the post in the opening 40 minutes.
But it didn’t take long for SBP to snap the scoreless duel in the second half. Giammatteo, after a hustling effort, got on a loose ball inside the box and lofted a short cross over the top that found a charging Juan Parada, whose header just eluded the outstretched arms of the goalkeeper as the two collided just 2:20 after the break.
Although the Gray Bees continued its dominance for the remainder of the game, Wandling wasn’t able to have a comfortable breath until Olla scored the "Goal of the Year," thus far.
The senior forward corralled a ball at midfield with his back to the goal. He turned and split two defenders with a quick burst and carried the ball 20 yards on a diagonal run toward the top of the box. He finally unloaded a blast with his right-foot and the ball didn’t slow down until it found the top, right corner of the goal.
“We always talk about it being a team effort,” said Wandling. “But it was a moment of individual brilliance that got us that second goal and allowed us to put the game away. Olla’s hard work created the shot and he hit it like a man and got us the much-needed second goal.”
Notes: The game against Pennington was the first of three straight outings against unbeaten opponents. Wandling’s club now turns its attention to New Jersey’s 15th-ranked club, Trenton Catholic Academy (6-0-1), at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at NJIT. Then, one of the marquee match-ups of the year takes place back at NJIT next Saturday (Oct. 6) when New Jersey’s top-ranked public school, Scotch Plains (8-0-1), visits SBP for an 8 p.m. tilt.
The victory over Pennington followed a 4-0 victory over The Hill School on Wednesday in Pottstown, Pa. Niqell DeMatas, Espana, Olla and Moraes scored goals in that outing.