What the Golden Knights did last year was win the program’s first-ever CIF Southern California Regional championship and, while there’s still a great deal of work to be done to return to that pinnacle, a balanced attack that saw five players score, put together crisp, artful passing and play solid defense on Thursday were all good signs that St. Francis remains a force.
“I think after we scored some goals we started passing better,” said St. Francis Coach Glen Appels, who got first-half tallies from freshman forward Mark Verso (28th minute) and sophomore midfielder Austin Frank (31st minute). “We were kind of scrambling around early and [had] a lot of through balls and long balls. Once we scored a couple goals, we settled down and we played the way I hope we play in our next game.”
Leading, 2-0, to begin the second half, the Golden Knights, who lost three standouts, including reigning All-Area Player of the Year Eric Verso, to the U.S. Soccer Academy, again went about 17 minutes without being able to cash in any of their several opportunities. But Swart got the second-half scoring started in the 57th minute when he leaped over diving Regents goalkeeper Jesus Ramos inside the goal box to nudge a 50-50 ball out of midair softly into the open goal.
Less than two minutes later, Kian Chachi put away a spectacular header off a corner-kick assist from fellow senior midfielder Alex Ondrejko for a 4-0 lead.
In the 64th minute, it was Swart converting on a header after catching the Reseda defense snoozing and beating a helpless Ramos. Ondrejko capped the scoring on a running shot from the left side into the high right corner off a perfect cross form senior midfielder Kenneth Tapia.
“The nice thing was a lot of different guys were scoring,” said Appels, whose team is ranked third in CIF Southern Section Division I.
Junior goalkeeper Hector Carranza recorded two saves in the first half before giving way to freshman Luca Coppola in the second half.
“I’m happy with our defense,” Appels said. “[The Regents] had some guys with some individual skill, and I think if we hadn’t been sharp defensively there could have been a goal the other way early and then it’s a different game.”
Get in touch GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at email@example.com.