THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Playing patient, unselfish soccer, St. Vincent's boys were back in the win column Tuesday following a tough league loss.
Controlling long stretches and creating ample scoring opportunities against Rincon Valley Christian, the Mustangs won, 3-1. The strong showing was a product of hard practices as St. Vincent aims for a title in the very competitive North Central League II.
"This was a good effort after our last game. We just needed to keep it together the whole game," said Steve Patin, one of St. Vincent's senior captains.
Coming off a five-goal home loss to Calistoga, the Mustangs were determined to string together steady possessions and keep pressure on Rincon Valley Christian.
Tuesday's score would have been more one-sided if not for the Eagles' sturdy defense, led by Gideon Halpin and repeated saves by goalkeeper Harrison Doolittle. RVC was missing two starters.
"We definitely build off our defense. We just need more opportunities," Halpin said.
St. Vincent created scoring chances in bunches with Patin, midfielder Henry Lane, and Marcos Hernandez leading the attack.
Hernandez, moved up from defender, opened the scoring with the only goal of the first half. Taking the ball to the center, Hernandez recovered a defender's block of his own kick, spun right and sent a shot off his left foot into the low right corner.
Often quicker to the ball, St. Vincent turned back the few RVC runs. The Mustangs frustrated the Eagles, picking off passes and cutting off clearing attempts near midfield.
"We did a real good job controlling the ball. We were more patient and worked together," said St. Vincent coach Dan Cunningham.
St. Vincent's pressure was evident in the second half as the Mustangs mustered eight shots on goal. The eventual game winner came off a series of passes with Lane sliding a feed to Hernandez for his second score on the afternoon.
"Goals just come with hard work. We've got a lot of scoring threats," Hernandez said.
The final tally for the visitors came on a corner kick from Drew Hoppe that Lane headed down into the left corner.
One of the few occasions that RVC beat the Mustangs' back line prevented a shutout.
Winning a free ball near midfield, Michael Cantrell worked right and then led Charley Mumford with a pass up the left side. The speedy, hard working Mumford struck the goal from 20 yards out.
"Our biggest weakness this year has been slow starts and giving up easy goals before we put it together," said Rincon Valley Christian coach Tor Benestad. "We felt good about the way we were playing today."
By winning, St. Vincent stayed near the top of the NCL II. St. Vincent's main competition figures to be Calistoga and Roseland University Prep, who St. Vincent has a win against, and Anderson Valley is a perennial contender.
The league could send a handful of teams to the North Coast Section small-school playoffs.
"There is no easy team in our league," Cunningham said.