“The fact that it was against a rival was big, but keeping the momentum in league was far more important,” said St. Francis Coach Glen Appels, whose team improved to 4-8-1 and 2-2-1 in league after having begun the week 2-8 and 0-2 in league. “We’re right back in the mix.”
Loyola (11-6-5, 2-1-2) entered Friday’s contest in first place, but with the loss fell into a second-place tie with Crespi behind Harvard-Westlake, while St. Francis now sits in fourth, just a point away from second and two removed from the top spot.
“I think, after Alemany, we got our goals, we got our turnaround,” said Swart in reference to the team’s 3-0 win against Alemany on Wednesday. “I think we always had it in us, it’s just a matter of that consistent effort and finishing. I think we finally got that down.”
In the match’s fourth minute, it was Swart who quickly delivered the eventual finish.
With St. Francis applying pressure deep in Loyola’s defensive half, a Cub defender tried to control possession, but Swart stole the ball, dribbled up the right side and from roughly 10 yards out booted in a 1-0 lead.
“Once he took a bad touch, I just went through and finished it,” Swart said.
The rest of the opening half was a high-energy, back-and-forth battle. St. Francis’ best chance to up its lead was a Joel Ingram free kick that caromed off the crossbar before eventually being played back in where a pinball scenario played out with Loyola’s goalie scooping up an attempt.
In the second half, though, the Golden Knights hunkered down and weathered the storm, thanks in large part to a stellar defense, keyed by Max Cadena and Tim Nguyen and some dramatic play from goalie Hector Carranza.
“We wanted to make sure we defended first,” Appels said. “The opportunities will eventually come.”
Loyola held an overwhelming possession advantage, but still only outshot the Golden Knights, 5-3, in the second half, and, as Appels predicted, his squad had its chances here and there.
But the story was Carranza and the defense.
Carranza made only four saves, but his last two were brilliant, as he made a diving stop of a low shot with just over 25 minutes left and made a phenomenal leaping grab of a header off a corner kick with four minutes left. It was part of a span during the final six minutes in which Loyola had three corners and three throw-ins deep inside St. Francis’ defensive zone.
“It’s always a push like that,” Swart said. “We just kept fighting.”
And now, suddenly, St. Francis has fought its way back, having gone 2-0-1 in league this week.
“Seven points,” Appels said, “that’s a pretty good week in the Mission League.”