There was a whiff of playoff atmosphere in the air as the St. Paul Warriors boys soccer team played host to the undefeated John F. Kennedy Islanders on Monday afternoon. With the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam high school boys soccer playoffs just around the corner, the Islanders kept their perfect record intact with a 2-nil victory over the Warriors at St. Paul Christian School in Dededo.
The Islanders improve to 9-0 on the season with two games remaining in the regular season. The Warriors drop to 4-2-3 as they battle for a top seed in the playoffs.
It was a defensive battle from start to finish as two of the best defensive squads in the league faced off. Scoreless through the first half, the Islanders offensive pressure finally paid dividends in the 51st minute when a corner by John Halili deflected off a St. Paul defender into goal.
The Islanders dominated time of possession most of the match with 12 shots on goal, while the Warriors managed only six. Junior Saena San Nicolas was phenomenal in goal for the Warriors with several leaping saves to keep the Warriors within striking distance.
But JFK continued to punish the St. Paul defense, adding an insurance goal in the 77th minute off a nice turnaround shot by Taylor Bonner. Bonner posted up his defender from the corner of the penalty box, before turning and drilling a one-bouncer past a diving San Nicolas into the right corner of the goal.
Bonner acknowledged that’s a shot he works on a lot in practice and his teammates have coined “the Taylor Turn.”
“I felt I had space behind my back, and I just turned and took the shot,” described Bonner.
But the story of the game was the JFK defense, which seemingly cut off every drive the Warriors attempted. St. Paul playmaker Jon Sevilla managed only two shots on goal in the second half as the Islanders tightened the noose on defense.
“We try to keep control of possession and keep it moving forward,” said JFK defender Emilio Babauta.
“Defense is our main priority,” said Halili. “The chemistry and communication is key … just got to keep playing our way, the Islander way.”
The exceptional defensive effort underscored the performance by JFK goalkeeper Allan Aranas, who notched another win and shutout. The senior admitted his defensive line makes his job easier, but pointed out the success comes from communication among the entire team.
Aranas said his job is to “be awake in the moment and stay prepared for the shot.”
Despite the loss, St. Paul head coach Nichika Fermin liked the intensity his team brought to the match, especially on defense.
“Soccer you have to start on defense and make your way up to offense. Defensively, we did good, but we have to find our offense to win games,” Fermin said.