Dominant first half lifts St. Francis soccer past Chaminade

LA CAÑADA — The St. Francis High soccer team was nothing short of dominating during the first half Monday against Chaminade.

With crisp passing, aggressive play and a stalwart defensive effort, the Golden Knights were able to set the tempo and create a wealth of scoring opportunities.

However, despite the dominance, St. Francis was only able to jump out to a one-goal lead through the first 35 minutes. Lucky for the Golden Knights, they were able to tack on another goal before the first half came to a close.

St. Francis would need that goal, as the Eagles scored early in the second half and the Golden Knights were able to hold on for an all-important 2-1 Mission League home victory at Friedman Field.

“It is a very important three points for us in league,” St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said. “Top to bottom, every team in this league can play. Any time you can get a win in the Mission League it’s an important win.

“Look, [Chaminade] beat Harvard-Westlake earlier this season, and Loyola has three ties already, so you have a take the wins where you can get them.”

St. Francis (5-6-3, 2-3-1 in league) came out in the first half motivated and invigorated against Chaminade (3-7, 1-5).

The Golden Knights continually beat the Eagles to balls, kept the ball primarily in the Chaminade half and, more importantly, kept their opponent from getting off shots.

The Golden Knights outshot the Eagles, 7-1, in the first half.

It didn’t take long for St. Francis to get on the board. In the third minute, Frankie Veiga took a throw-in from the right side and put a perfect ball on net.

The ball skidded through the box, nicked off Chaminade goalkeeper Angus Bent and landed at the feet of Griffin O’Brien, who put it in.

The Golden Knights would then create several scoring opportunities over the course of the next 25-plus minutes, but they couldn’t add to their lead.

“It’s not discouraging that we didn’t score more in that first half,” Appels said. “It would have been more discouraging if we didn’t create the chances. Obviously we’d like to finish the chances, but just the fact that we were creating the good chances is encouraging for us.”

St. Francis was finally able to add to its lead in the 36th minute. Veiga did the dirty work to make the goal happen.

The senior got the ball in deep on the left side and worked to keep possession against two Chaminade defenders.

He was able to keep control, break free of the Eagles and angle a ball toward the goal.

Jake Anderson was there to take the pass, as he blasted it past Bent to put the Golden Knights ahead, 2-0.

“Any time he has the ball you have to anticipate that you might get a pass out of it,” Anderson said of Veiga. “It just kind of landed at my feet and I was able to put it in.”

After going into halftime with a two-goal deficit, the Eagles stormed out in second half and made a game of it. In fact, Andy Naidu tallied a goal in the first minute of the second half off a throw-in to cut the deficit in half.

St. Francis was then able to dodge a bullet in the 52nd minute. Golden Knights goalkeeper Mark Garcia came out to cut down the angle of a shot, but when he tried to cover up on the attempt the ball squirted away.

With the net empty, Chaminade’s J.T. Wilson took a hard shot on goal. Luckily for St. Francis, junior defender Benjamin Gabella was positioned perfectly at the goal line and he was able to head the ball out on what would have been a sure goal.

“We just looked lethargic to start that second half when we gave up that goal,” Appels said. “We just have to calm down in front of the goal and hopefully get a few more shots to go in.”

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