LOS ANGELES — No matter records or rankings, St. Francis High soccer’s matchups with rival Loyola regularly prove to be tight, contentious contests.
Friday afternoon’s Mission League game at Loyola High stuck to the script, as the Cubs, ranked second in the state and fifth in the nation by Maxpreps, edged the Golden Knights, 1-0.
PHOTOS: St. Francis vs. Loyola boys' soccer
“We made one mistake defensively,” said St. Francis Coach Glen Appels, whose Knights dropped to 4-6-2, 1-2-1. “It’s a really thin margin of error in a game at this level.”
The margin of victory came with little more than four minutes remaining in the first half. Following a Cubs corner kick, junior Tommy Fraher played a ball into the goal box, where senior Sean Pleskow touched a low shot from roughly five yards out past the save attempt of goalie Mark Garcia, who made six saves.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Cubs Coach Chris Walter said. “It always is.
“That’s how these games are against St. Francis.”
Loyola (16-0-3, 2-0-1), the second-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division I, earned its fourth consecutive shutout, winning the shots battle, 12-8.
“We misfired on the few chances we had,” Appels said. “[Loyola’s a] team that’s so good defensively that you’re only going to get a few chances.”
Perhaps St. Francis’ most favorable chance came with just over five minutes left when Loyola’s Timothy Mehl drew his second yellow card of the game, leaving the Cubs a man down.
Senior Frankie Veiga played a ball forward through the heart of the field where a Loyola defender deflected it and the ball ran just right of frame for a near miss and a subsequent corner. The ensuing corner went without a shot, though, and shortly thereafter, a huge Cubs opportunity saw Trevor Homstad cross into Elliot Smith-Hastie just in front of the goal, but his shot was chipped left.
Garcia was brought out to the Cubs’ half of the field with little time left as Veiga took a throw-in. The ball was knocked out of bounds and another Veiga throw-in was cleared, creating another chance for the Cubs, but the shot on an exposed net went wide as Garcia ran back and cut off the angle.
One last chance for St. Francis for an equalizer came off the foot of sophomore Jake Anderson from five yards out, but it was a low shot with little room to get much on it and it was easily saved. A second later, the final whistle blew.
For the most part, the contest, which proved physical and chippy at times as most Loyola-St. Francis games are, saw the Golden Knights’ passing look formidable, but always come up just short of the final pass to produce a shot.
“The last ball let us down almost every time,” Appels said. “We were one pass away from that shot.”
The game concluded a week in which St. Francis played three league matches on the road in five days.
“It was a long week for us,” said Appels, whose team is now off until hosting Notre Dame on Friday.
Though it sustained a loss at Loyola, Appels is hopeful that the level of intensity and caliber of play showcased will be a springboard going forward.
“We have been a step away from really breaking out,” he said. “We hope every game is gonna be the one we break out.
“We learned how good we can play when we put in the effort, so hopefully we can carry that forward.”