Varsity soccer loses to Alief Elsik
By Liam Smith ’20
The Strake Jesuit Fighting Crusaders suffered a 5-0 loss to the Alief Elsik Rams at home on Friday, January 31.
Just ten days before, Strake Jesuit had knocked off the number one team in the nation—Seven Lakes High School. The Crusaders also kicked off their district schedule with a 1-0 win over Pearland Dawson. All seemed to be trending upwards for the Jesuit; they would now face the ninth- ranked team in Texas, a former state champion and perennial national contender, in Alief Elsik.
The Rams struck with an early goal in the first ten minutes of play. That chink in the Crusaders’ armor quickly let in three more goals before the half.
“We tried to man-guard their striker,” senior goalie Buddy Williams said. “That allowed the other wingers to drop behind our defense and receive quick passes through the defensive line.”
Costly fouls and inopportune handballs fed Elsik two of those first-half goals.
In the second half, the Crusaders showcased their grit. However, in their eagerness to erase their deficit, the Strake Jesuit players began to accumulate fouls. Brian Johnson and Paxton Schulte, veteran assets, were expelled from the game.
Neither team could go a minute without a simple petty foul that interrupted the flow of the game.
In fact, Elsik, a team that, from assistant coach Garnder’s observations, “prided itself on offensive chemistry and clinical passing,” could hardly string together a fluent passing possession in the second half. The Jesuit defense had turned their offense inside-out while our offense pursued a boom-or-bust attack. Our sophomores and juniors were crossing the ball downfield, only to be intercepted by the Elsik defenders. Meanwhile Elsik was not attacking with their typical intensity but held on to a comfortable lead.
“We came into the season with four returning varsity starters,” Assistant Coach Gardner said after the game. “So we used our early non-conference games—some of which were in interstate tournaments—sort of find our identity as a team. We came off the high of that Seven Lakes win, and I think that showed us the maximum potential we had as a team. But districts is a different animal.”
Teams who play each other every year tend to learn each other’s tendencies and formulate game plans to attack their weaknesses. Some plans pan out, others do not.
“When we beat Seven Lakes, we scored off an early corner kick and capitalized on a mistake during play—that’s how you beat those high powered teams,” Coach Gardner saisd. “With Elsik, they consistently have good team chemistry with their squads. When you give them chances, they capitalize on those opportunities and make you pay. Facing an early deficit kind of demoralized us. But what makes this game interesting is how the team responds to the game.”
The Fighting Crusaders dropped to 4-4-2 and 1-1 in district play. Elsik kept their perfect 11-win season, untouched.