VYPE U: Jesuit Soccer Falls to Elite Elsik
The Strake Jesuit Fighting Crusaders suffered a demoralizing 5-0 loss to the Alief Elsik Rams at home on Friday. Just 10 days before, Strake Jesuit had knocked off the number one team in the nation, Seven Lakes High School. It also kicked off its district schedule with a 1-0 win over Pearland Dawson. All seemed to be trending upwards for the Crusaders, but their momentum slowed down when they faced the ninth-ranked team in Texas, a former state champion and perennial national contender Alief Elsik.
The Rams struck with an early goal in the first 10 minutes. That chink in the Crusaders' armor quickly resulted in three more goals before the half.
"We tried to man guard their striker," said senior goalkeeper Buddy Williams. "That allowed the other wingers to drop behind our defense and receive quick passes through the defensive line."
Players were livid, and costly fouls and inopportune handballs fed Elsik two of those first half goals.
The second half did showcase some Crusaders' grit though. Passionate veterans were booked and thrown out of the game for their eagerness to erase the deficit. What constituted eagerness, one might ask? There were fouls galore because of shoving, grabbing, slamming, gnashing, yelling and spatting. Brian Johnson and Paxton Schulte were also valuable veteran assets lost to the passions of the game. Either team couldn't go a whole minute without a simple petty foul interrupting the flow of the game.
In fact, Elsik, a team that from assistant coach John Gardner's observations "prided itself on offensive chemistry and clinical passing", could hardly string together a fluent passing possession in the second half. The team played on its heels after Jesuit had turned its offense inside out. Sophomores and juniors were crossing the ball downfield ad nauseam to the Elsik defenders. The offense they must have studied on film, predicated with gradual passing, was chucked to the roadside for a more boom-or-bust attack. All this to say, Elsik was not attacking like their usual self. But, Rams' fans might argue, "Look at the score line. We didn't need anymore goals".
Assistant coach Gardner commented on the team's performance after the game and what it meant for the season.
"We came into the season with four returning varsity starters," he said. "So, we used our early non-conference games, some of which were in interstate tournaments, [to] sort of find our identity as a team. We came off the high of that Seven Lakes win and I think that showed us the maximum potential we had as a team. But, district is a different animal. Teams who play each other every year tend to learn each other's tendencies and formulate game plans to attack their weaknesses. Some plans pan out, others do not."
"When we beat Seven Lakes, we scored off an early corner kick and capitalized on a mistake during play," he continued. "That's how you beat those high powered teams [however simple that might sound]. With Elsik, they consistently have good team chemistry with their squads. When you give them chances, they capitalize on those opportunities and make you pay. Facing an early deficit kind of demoralized us. Once you slipped to the Rams, it was hard to bounce back for any team. But, what makes this game interesting is how the team responds to the game."
Remember, they still have potential. Conquering adversity through the regular season only helps a team with postseason aspirations.
The Fighting Crusaders drop to 4-4-2 and 1-1 in district play, while Elsik keeps its perfect 11-win season untouched. Jesuit travels to a 4-2-1 Alief Hastings next Wednesday, while Elsik hosts Pearland.