The losses have been piling up lately for the Bishop Hendricken soccer team, and head coach Mickey Rooney told his group after Thursday night’s 2-1 defeat to La Salle just how much he hates losing.
In this case, though, he’s okay with the results. Against some of the top teams in the division, the Hawks have held their own, and that’s been enough to make him feel as though the team is trending upwards despite dropping three of its last four.
Hendricken’s three losses have been to the Rams – who are undefeated and alone in first at 7-0-1 – North Kingstown, which is in third place at 7-1-0 and Hope, which is in fifth place at 5-2-1. Those aren’t bad defeats, especially because they’ve all been 2-1 games.
“That puts us right there,” Rooney said. “It was a good barometer of where we stand. We played North Kingstown this week and we played La Salle, and we hung in with both of them.”
The lone win during the last four games was a 4-1 victory over East Providence. Hendricken is currently tied for seventh place in D-I with Central Falls with 13 points and has a 4-4-1 record. Central Falls has played one fewer game than the Hawks.
But Hendricken has been giving every team a run for its money.
“There’s been a lot of different styles of play on the teams this year and we’ve seemed to step up and be right in there with every single one of them,” Rooney said. “I’m happy.”
Against La Salle, it looked like that trend might stop. Hendricken kept the game scoreless for the majority of the first half and was often back on its heels, but was bailed out by strong goalkeeping from Daniel Escobar.
Escobar made a sliding save on Luke Telang in the 14th minute, and then successfully knocked away two consecutive corner kicks. In the 22nd minute, Escobar tipped a rising shot by Stavros Zarokostas over the net. Ten minutes later, he robbed Alex DaCosta when he dove to the post, and then he saved the rebound head from Javier Lopez to end the threat.
Escobar made 16 saves in the game.
“I thought Dan Escobar had a fantastic game,” Rooney said.
Eventually, though, the Rams got on the board. In the 36th minute, Zarokostas got the ball deep on the left side and sent a cross through the box to the right. DaCosta headed the ball and it slipped past Escobar and in to the open net.
Early on in the second half, La Salle kept coming. Just three minutes in, Trevor Torres crossed the ball from the right side and Telang volleyed it out of the air next to the far post and into the net to make it 2-0.
“I think that we made two defensive lapses in the game and they scored goals,” Rooney said. “But that’s going to happen in high school, it’s never going to be a perfect situation.”
The Hawks looked finished. Suddenly though, they woke up.
In the 57th minute, Brady Chant took a long throw-in to the box from way out, and the ball bounced up to the top left corner of the box. Freshman Lucas Gesmundo was there, and he got a clean left-footed strike on the ball and sent it to the far corner. With players seemingly everywhere, the ball somehow made it through and caught the corner of the net for a goal.
“It shows character,” Rooney said. “We stood up and we said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
La Salle nearly re-upped the lead to two goals right afterwards, but Escobar made a diving save on a Torres shot from directly in front to keep it 2-1. Then the Hawks went on the offensive. In the 62nd minute, Chant threw another ball into the box and Brennan Martin sent an open shot over the crossbar. Just a minute later, Chant dribbled through defenders all the way from behind midfield before sending a pass out wide to Gesmundo. Gesmundo’s cross was in-between Chant and La Salle keeper Alex Padilla, and the two collided while both making contact with the ball. It squirted just wide of the net for a goal kick.
“We played hard and we played well,” Rooney said. “They’re a very good team. We were there with them. I think that a little bounce one way or another and we could have come away with a tie. I think a tie was a fair result, and they’re top of the league.”
That was the last solid opportunity for Hendricken, as it kept trying to push up but couldn’t find the room to get a good shot on Padilla before the final whistle.
The Rams escaped with the win, and the Hawks were narrow losers yet again.
“Overall, I hate to lose, but I’m happy with the way we performed and played,” Rooney said.
Hendricken should have no problem making the playoffs, and it has five regular season games left. It hosts 4-4 Shea on Wednesday at 6 p.m., then goes to 2-5 Portsmouth on Friday at 7 p.m.
After that, it has games against Tolman, South Kingstown and Woonsocket to finish the regular season.
All five games are winnable. Only South Kingstown is ahead of Hendricken in the standings.
“We’ve made the playoffs,” Rooney said. “I know we’re in the playoffs. We’re just going for seeding now and trying to progress little steps every single time.”