St. Anne’s-Belfield’s boys soccer team knows what kind of tone the Saints need to set to compete with the state’s top programs — they have to fight for every ball, scrap for every chance and work to frustrate the opposition.
That’s a full team effort, but it helps when Gianni Maltese puts in the kind of relentless effort the junior captain did Tuesday. Maltese battled and tied up players who held a significant size advantage over him and generally gave the Saints the kind of hard nosed presence they need in the midfield.
“Practice, I coach him in club too and he just never stops,” said STAB coach Phillip Barr. “He’s one our captains, Joe Heaphy is the other captain and they anchor us in the midfield.”
Proof that Maltese doesn’t ever stop working? Barr felt obligated to tell him not to go to club training immediately after his relentless, surely exhausting performance. Why? Because he’d probably go if Barr didn’t.
In a clash with North Cross, a VISAA D2 state finalist in 2017, that tone and that effort from throughout the Saints’ roster was nearly enough to pull out a win before a North Cross goal in stoppage time helped the Raiders salvage a 2-2 tie. While the result wasn’t what the Saints had hoped for, there was a lot to like in the tie.
“We’ve been steadily progressing, each game we’re getting better,” Barr said. “This is a young team, we’ve only got four seniors and the past two seasons we’ve graduated 18 seniors. It’s a big influx of getting new faces in.”
STAB scored twice in the first half on a pair of opportunistic goals. The first came when sophomore Daniel Lauterbach in a savvy moment noticed that the North Cross keeper was down and struck a ball from way outside the box that sailed in. The second came after a North Cross equalizer — an Elijah Lloyd free kick cross to Spencer Brown that Brown finished with a header — and was perhaps even stranger than the first score. Freshman defender Will Turner hit a high, arcing, rainbow of a ball toward the goal from midfield looking to put it on frame late in the first half and give the Saints a chance. Instead the ball carried, the North Cross keeper couldn’t get his hands on it and it floated into the net untouched.
“They were hungry but you never know how the ball bounces and we’ll take it anyway we can get it,” Barr said.
With that 2-1 lead in tact all the way until stoppage time, the Saints appeared in line for an impressive win in their opener after taking some critical steps toward improvement in their two scrimmages. But North Cross refused to go quietly and Geist Pollock dribbled into the box in the closing seconds and slipped a strike in for the equalizer, helping North Cross escape with a tie after trailing since Turner’s goal.
The Saints will travel to Norfolk Academy Friday for their Prep League opener at 4 p.m.