The Mount Saint Joseph soccer team never knew how long its dream season would last.
Would it end suddenly after a practice? Would it be stopped after a game? Most high school teams ran into this situation due to the pandemic, but for the Gaels, it was tougher than most because they had a team that doesn’t come along all the time.
So, that’s why head coach Mike St. Martin repeatedly delivered a strong message to his troops at practice and games.
“I just said to do the best you can,” he said. “We don’t know how long this is going to last. I said this even at practice. Every game, I know this was definitely the feeling. We just wanted to get out there and enjoy this time together.”
The plan worked in the abbreviated season. St. Joe finished 8-0 overall, tops among Baltimore Catholic League and MIAA A Conference teams. The Gaels were ranked second in the United States by Top Drawer Soccer.
St. Martin was in his 24th season as a head coach and guided a team loaded with 18 seniors to a perfect season in which it outscored opponents 34-7. The Gaels finished with seven players who made first-team Baltimore Catholic League this season due to their dominant play.
Those seven players were two-time captain and senior midfielder Van Danielson (uncommitted); senior captain and midfielder Jackson Simons (Navy); senior captain and midfielder Tyquan Stroud (Temple); senior midfielder Miles Lam (American); senior defender Sean Thompson (UMBC); senior midfielder and defender Hunter Murphy (uncommitted), and junior midfielder Brian St. Martin (Maryland).
Mike St. Martin said he was very proud that his team finished with a perfect season during a difficult time, especially because the Gaels really didn’t know when it could end — which, as noted, could have happened at any moment.
“I think it added pressure,” the coach said. “No L’s, no ties, which is tough to do in soccer. We felt like we were supposed to be the best team out there, and we wanted to prove it.”
St. Martin also thought this season was special for a number of other reasons. He’s known many of the players since they were just kids in club ball with Baltimore Celtic.
He also had to repeatedly tell his Gaels to be careful due to the difficulties of COVID-19. St. Martin said he took pride in the way his players exercised caution away from school and the soccer field this fall. In fact, Mount Saint Joseph’s soccer team did not have a case of COVID-19 at all this fall.
“There’s no way of 100 percent preventing this thing,” he said. “I don’t have a radar on them, but I really think they did well. They did a great job. [There were many] sacrifices all the kids had to make outside of soccer.”
Danielson led the team in scoring with eight goals and five assists. He is still looking at multiple schools, including Penn State and Temple, for next year. As one of the seniors, he felt the team’s experience proved crucial during a tough time.
“I think seniority helps,” Danielson said. “… You kind of learn with experience. I just think the team really jelled as the season went on.”
In the end, though, this was a team that featured plenty of weapons. And that just proved to be too much for its opponents and led to the perfect season.
“I just think that overall we had a very talented group,” the midfielder said. “We learned how to play together. You never want to see your senior season [end] without knowing what could have been. We had a really talented group, and we had fun.”
The Gaels also were motivated by a painful ending to the 2019 season. They made it to the MIAA A Conference semifinals but fell to Calvert Hall in penalty kicks.
That tough loss is something that stuck with Mount Saint Joseph this season.
“We had a good year last year … and that was always in the back of our mind,” St. Martin said. “To come back this year was great, especially not knowing if it was going to come together.”
This season, the Gaels won a game by seven goals and another by five. Their toughest game was a 3-2 overtime victory against Loyola Blakefield. Plus, there was a 3-2 regulation victory against the Cardinals.
St. Joe beat Calvert Hall 4-1 in the second meeting later in the season. Since the MIAA had an open season, there were no playoffs (and the season was shut down in late November anyway). The Gaels finished with the best record among A Conference teams, with the Cardinals second at 4-2.
Calvert Hall edged out Archbishop Curley (4-3) for the No. 2 spot among A Conference teams. The Cardinals were also an experienced team, and Calvert Hall had five players that earned spots on the All-Catholic League team.
Senior defender Liam Giblin, senior midfielder Hayden Lim, junior forward David Peters and sophomore midfielders Cody Angelini and Rich Monath were selected.
Still, the Gaels were just too much for everyone, especially on offense. No one came close to the 34 goals they scored this season. St. Martin will lose a bunch of players to graduation, but he is optimistic about what will happen in 2021.
“It’s going to be a lot of guys going, but there’s good guys coming back,” he said. “[The] JV did well. [Still], it was just a great season. It was a great year to get together and make the best of what we could.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mount Saint Joseph