BROCKTON — It seems as though every time the St. John’s Prep soccer team has been tasked with facing a challenge this season, the Eagles have risen to the occasion. Perhaps Tuesday night’s Division 1 state semifinal against Brockton was one challenge too many for the Eagles.
St. John’s, the North sectional champion and home team for Tuesday’s game, battled for 80 minutes, but a late penalty kick awarded to South champion Brockton doomed the Eagles in a 2-1 loss at Rocky Marciano Stadium.
“Brockton’s a great team,” Eagles coach Dave Crowell said. “I thought my kids played great. I’m so proud of the way they played in the second half. It was a tough call on that penalty kick.”
The Boxers’ offense came out firing on all cylinders in the first half, keeping Prep goalie Christian Buckley, a junior, on his toes throughout the period. Scoreless through the first 26 minutes of play, Brockton forward Leonardo Teixeira put the Boxers ahead 1-0 with an unassisted goal in the 27th minute.
“Our plan was to come in here and turn their (home field) advantage into ours by scoring the first goal,” Crowell said. “We weren’t able to do that. We had two great chances early on and if either one goes in, that changes the outcome.”
St. John’s senior forward Steven Yakita, who scored 28 goals for the Eagles this season, looked to tie the game a minute later but his bicycle kick shot sailed high over the crossbar.
The Eagles put themselves in a tough situation through the final 10 minutes of the half by drawing two yellow cards. Brockton couldn’t capitalize and Buckley’s nine saves in the period kept the Eagles within a goal, down 1-0.
“(At halftime) We talked about the things we needed to do better,” Crowell said. “We came out in the second half and I thought we did them better. We started to show them a little too much respect in the first half, so we had our guys play higher.”
Needing a score to save their season, the Eagles ramped up their offensive attack in the second half. Senior midfielder Brian Brennan delivered the game-tying goal when he picked up a loose ball in front of the net and tipped it last Brockton goalie Fabio Andrade in the 59th minute.
“I thought we did a much better job in the second half,” Crowell said. “We did a better job of containing and winning the second ball. We got our opportunity and we took it.”
The game stayed tied at 1-1 until the Boxers drew a penalty kick in the 73rd minute. Brockton midfielder Odair Monteiro converted on the opportunity, firing a shot past a diving Buckley to give the Boxers the 2-1 lead. Monteiro’s goal proved to be the game-winner as the Boxers held on in the final minutes to end the Eagles’ season.
Undoubtedly, Buckley was the star of the game for St. John’s. The junior, filling in for starter Cameron, his older brother, finished with 14 saves.
“Christian was amazing tonight,” Crowell said. “He’s going to be back next year and that makes us all feel great. He was phenomenal tonight.”
Despite the loss, Crowell spoke highly of the team’s success this season. St. John’s ends the season at 19-1-3.
“It was a great group of kids to coach,” Crowell said. “It was a pleasure coaching them.”