Determination mixed with speed, technique and strong goaltending is making St. John Vianney’s soccer team tough to play this season.
The talent was on display in the opening of the St. Dominic High School Boys Varsity Soccer Tournament Sept. 4 when Vianney defeated Saint Louis Priory 1-0. Vianney’s score came in the first period when senior forward Colin Doherty streaked in toward the goal.
Steady play from Vianney goalie Kyle Diffley held the lead. In the first half, he snared a shot off a free kick and about halfway through the second half he stopped a blistering shot by Priory’s Donny Ross on a penalty shot.
Vianney head coach Brian Haddock called the save on the penalty shot a “game-changer.”
Diffley said he handles the pressure of goaltending, keeping relaxed by thinking ahead instead of the previous plays. “It’s fun,” he said of soccer, something he’s done since the third grade when playing for a CYC team at St. Paul in Fenton. He decided to try goalie because he wasn’t enamored with running. Now, “I couldn’t imagine being without” soccer, he said.
Vianney senior forward Jacob Sansone said Priory had a good game plan, seeking to frustrate Vianney in their attack. Eventually though, his team countered it defensively by staying with the opposing players and launching a counterattack, Sansone said.
Though he didn’t score in the Priory game, Sansone is off to a strong start. He scored in each of the Griffins’ first two games after leading the squad with 13 goals a year ago. He had goals in four straight games, going back to last season, and seven goals in seven games, scoring in six of those seven contests.
Haddock liked what he saw from his team and from a disciplined Priory squad. “Both sides brought the speed and the physicality,” he said. “Priory was very organized, very, very disciplined and well-coached. They play a very stylish brand of soccer. And if you don’t keep your discipline, they’ll burn you.”
Calling it “an even match,” Haddock pointed out that both teams missed on chances early in the game that they might convert later in the season as they gain experience.
Priory head coach John Mohrmann agreed that the tournament opener was “a good, even game. We played with calmness and skill out of the back, even when they pressed us, often progressing effectively through the midfield. But we needed to be a bit more precise and creative” in the offensive zone.
Although Priory had a couple of chances to tie the game, including the penalty, “we just didn’t create enough quality chances,” Mohrmann said. “To their credit, Vianney had a well-organized defense and good goalie.”
Mohrmann, whose team won the Metro League tournament and entered the St. Dominic tournament 3-0, said the Vianney game provides a lesson that it requires extra grit and savvy to score against really good teams and that a moment of lost focus can lose the game. He’s optimistic about the strengths of the team so far. The players train with intensity, focus and discipline, striving to improve every day, he said. “They truly compete for each other, which has helped us to match up with some good early competition. And this kind of team-first mindset and mental toughness will be necessary to achieve our best in the grind of a high school season that often requires three games a week against tough teams.”
Vianney defeated Eureka 1-0 and St. Dominic 2-0 to start the season. “It’s going to be a barn-burner every game,” Haddock said. “There isn’t a team on our schedule we could take lightly.”
His team focuses on being physically ready during the offseason and builds mental toughness early in the season. “This group has what it takes to withstand the three games in six days like we have this week,” he said.
Vianney follows the St. Dominic tournament with games in the CBC and CYC tournaments. “It’s brutal,” Haddock said, but “with the mentality these guys have, we’ll be able to weather the physical storm.”
Sharing in the spirituality that the Marianist school brings is “the number-one reason we’re here,” Haddock said, noting the importance of weekly Masses the team attends and prayers before and after games.
Sansone, a member of St. Paul Parish in Fenton, agreed, adding that “faith and praying together is one way to become closer and have a better bond as a group.”
He’ll say a prayer sometimes thanking God for the opportunity to compete and for the talent He’s bestowed on the players.
Diffley, who stays involved with the St. Paul Parish youth group, credits his coach, seniors from last year’s team, a goalkeeper-trainer, the team’s other goalie and others for his success. He credits Vianney’s success to the teamwork instilled by the coaches.
On his goalie gloves, Diffley has a quote from Philippians 4:13, “Everything is possible in Him who has strengthened me.”
St. John Vianney forward Kamou Harris, left, raced to the ball as he was defended by Priory’s Carl Azrak, center, and Charlie Ferrick.
>> Vianney Soccer Prayer
In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
you for letting us compete in today’s match.
Please continue to Bless
us, our opponents, officials and guests throughout this contest.
keep all of us safe and help us play to the best of our ability. We ask
this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
St. John Vianney; Pray for us.
May the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Be Gloried In All Places Through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.