Gilman coach Jon Seal literally sweated out a 1-1 tie against Mount St. Joseph on Wednesday afternoon in Irvington, as much for the tense nature of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference battle as for what he was wearing.
Donning a blue rain jacket and pants to match on a sunny Indian summer day with temperatures peaking in the low 80s, Seal was flushed with excitement and perspiration after the Greyhounds extended their unbeaten streak to eight games.
It was after a loss to the same Gaels on Sept. 16th that Seal began wearing the outfit that has been a good luck charm during a 6-0-2 span.
That said, Seal, for all of his superstition, believes that there’s more to ninth-ranked Gilman’s fine play than his jacket and pants.
“I’ve been enjoying this,” said Seal, whose squad improved to 8-4-3 and 6-3-3 in conference play. “It’s more about a belief in one another than anything we’ve done tactically. You can make all the changes you want, but you have to believe and trust in each other.”
That belief and trust was tested after No. 3 Mount St. Joe (10-2-2, 9-2-2) took a 1-0 advantage in the first minute of the second period on a header to the far corner by Jake Mazzei on a ball perfectly played to him by his junior classmate Jordan Ehart.
Further damage was avoided when Gilman senior goalie John Philippou came well off his line to spoil an opportunity by St. Joe sophomore Casey McCanna and junior Tyler Collins’ header drifted over the goal midway through the period.
Two minutes later, Gilman sophomore Greg Diette cleared a hard shot heading toward the goal to keep the deficit intact.
It proved to be a big play when Greyhound senior midfielder Luke Wulf’s corner kick was finished by junior midfielder Joe Melancon on the doorstep in front of St. Joe senior keeper Nick DeShong to deadlock the score at 1-1 with 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
“We’ve been working on it in practice,” Melancon said. “We played it to the front post and I got it past the keeper. It’s nice that we got the tie, but it stinks that we didn’t get the win.”
DeShong would more than redeem himself when his diving save in the 77th minute denied sophomore midfielder Avery Merlo’s heavy shot from 15 yards that might well have won the game for the Greyhounds in regulation.
Even so, DeShong was not impressed with his own performance.
“We broke down as a defense and he just kind of got the best of us, but it was a real routine save,” he said. “I was more worried about him playing it across. It’s OK to tie, but it’s very disappointing. We expected to win. We’re trying to come back from the (Archbishop) Curley loss. So we kind of take it as a negative, but we’re trying to build off it and stay together.”
In the first overtime, it was Philippou who left his feet to gobble up what would have been a golden goal for Mazzei, whose quick feet and dazzling skill set made him a threat to score almost every time he touched the ball.
“I just wanted to make a play for my team,” Philippou said.
Gilman forward Teddy Ndje had a pair of breakaways in the second overtime period. Alec Fenstermacher alertly blocked the first attempt by the freshman and DeShong snagged the second to preserve the deadlock.
Despite the standoff, both squad appear to be sharp as the regular season winds down and the playoffs loom.
“We’re still in the playoffs,” DeShong said. “We’re still coming.”
Seal does not deny that his team deserves to be called scrappy.
“We only have four or five year-round soccer players,” he said. “The rest are just really good athletes. We’re not always pretty to watch, but sometimes we’re very pretty to watch.”
St. Joe is currently in second place in the MIAA A and will visit top-ranked Calvert Hall on Friday. Gilman is now tied for fourth place with No. 4 McDonogh, which will be in Roland Park to challenge the Greyhounds on Friday.
NO. 3 MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 1, NO. 9 GILMAN 1, 2OT
Gil 0 1 0 0 0
MSJ 0 1 0 0 0
GOALS: GIL-Melancon; MSJ-Mazzei.
ASSISTS: GIL-Wulf; MSJ-Ehart.
SAVES: GIL-Philippou 7; MSJ-DeShong 8.