Coming off its worst performance of the season, No. 3 Calvert Hall bounced back on the road Tuesday in Irvington, claiming a 2-1 victory over one of the hottest soccer teams in the MIAA A Conference, as the Cardinals topped No. 5 Mount St. Joseph, 2-1.

The win took much of the sting out of Friday’s 5-1 loss to No. 6 Archbishop Curley and strengthened Calvert Hall’s hold on second place in the league.

Both goals came from senior defenders, as Matt Breidenstein scored late in the first half and Jeff Schaefer tallied midway through the second half to propel the Cardinals. Both goals were assisted by senior forward Camillo Sanchez.

The first half was virtually even until Calvert Hall (10-4-1, 9-3-1) broke on top in the 37th minute. The goal came off a set piece as Sanchez lofted a free kick from the left side to the far post, where Breidenstein won a header that deflected off the back of a Gael defender and inside the left post.

“All year we have been getting our chances on set pieces and haven’t been finishing them,” said Breidenstein. “I got up and won the ball, got a lucky bounce and it ended up in the back of the net.”

At the start of the second half, Mount St. Joe applied 20 minutes of sustained pressure, creating numerous chances, but the Gaels came away with nothing to show for their effort.

Perhaps the biggest heart-breaker for the Gaels (10-6, 7-5) came in the 48th minute. Sophomore Jake Mazzei, marked deep in the box, made a nifty move to pop the ball over his defender and then stepped inside to head the volley on goal. However, Calvert Hall keeper Sam Loeffler, who is battling a leg injury and was doubtful until just prior to the game, rose up and punched the ball over the crossbar to protect the Cardinals’ one goal lead.

Ten minutes later the lead grew to two.

Calvert Hall’s D.R. Medtart dumped a ball for Sanchez down in the left corner and Sanchez fired a cross through the box. The ball was out of the reach of the first two Cardinals in the area, but as it faded away from the goal, Schaefer came back to it and fired a hard shot inside the right post as he spun back towards the goal.

“Camillo was down on the left side and swung the ball in,” said Schaefer. “I was going to the near post, but I had to adjust and come back to the midfield and just bury it.”

Playing well at St. Joe was important to Sanchez, according to Calvert Hall head coach Rich Zinkand.

“Camillo played very, very well today. I think he was disappointed in the game on Friday night and came out today with something to prove,” said Zinkand. “It was a little special for him to play over here at St. Joe because it was between Calvert Hall and St. Joe when he was deciding on high schools and, fortunately, we were able to get him. Now he’s a senior and I think he wanted to leave a good memory here.”

The second Calvert Hall goal finally slowed the Gaels’ thrust and the Cardinals were able to widle away much of the remaining clock. St. Joe, however, did make a final push and finally got on the board with 1:38 to play.

Junior Joe Clark made a nice move to split two defenders on the right wing before firing a hard cross into the box to senior Andrew Burke, who blasted a strike that was saved by Loeffler. The rebound, however, stayed in front where it was finished with authority by Jake Mazzei.

St. Joe was not able to mount another run in the remaining time, as the Cardinals held on for the win.

“It was important for us to bounce back after Friday night. We talked after the game and it was uncharacteristic of Calvert Hall in the last 20 minute span (against Curley),” said Zinkand. “But, we had two good days of training and came over here with the mindset of whatever it took to get the three points.”

With the victory, the Cardinals increased their point total to 28, giving them a four-point lead over third-place Loyola. With top-ranked McDonogh (37 points), which defeated Gilman, 6-1, on Wednesday, in complete control of the top seed, Calvert Hall is trying to lock down the second position which provides a first round bye and a home game for the conference semifinals. The Cardinals have three regular season league games remaining, two with Gilman and one with Archbishop Spalding.

St. Joe (10-6, 7-5) is tied for fourth with Curley (12-8, 7-6), each with 21 points. Suddenly hot as well, Curley defeated Spalding, 3-2, on Wednesday. Also in the league on Monday, Loyola defeated St. Paul’s, 3-1.

Wherever Calvert Hall ends up, Zinkand feels his squad is poised to make a run at the championship.

“We’ve got a group that works extremely hard and understands the game. I’ve had a couple of these guys for four years now,” said Zinkand. “We’re looking forward to just taking it one game at a time and, hopefully, securing that second seed and home field advantage for the playoffs.”

Breidenstein said the team is looking to build momentum and be at its best when the post-season gets underway.

“We just have to keep on working. We’ve had our ups and downs this season. Now we have to build on this and go into the playoffs on stride.”

As for St. Joe, head coach Mike St. Martin believes his club continued it’s strong play, despite the setback.

“Of course, I’m disappointed with the loss, but we played well. If you check the stats, we had numerous shots,” said St. Martin. “They did a good job of defending and they’re physical, getting in the way of some of ours, but I was proud of the way my guys played. We fought to the end; came out in the second half and in the first 20 minutes must have had 10 shots, just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The Gaels are also looking to build on their momentum.

“We’ve won, coming into this, eight of our last nine games. So, we’ve been on a bit of a roll,” added St. Martin. “Even though we didn’t come out on the end I would like, I still think we played well. We’re not going to hang our heads from this. We’re going to move on.”

CH    1  1  —  2
MSJ  0  1  —  1

CH-Breidenstein, Schaefer; MSJ-Mazzei.
ASSISTS: CH-Sanchez 2; MSJ-Burke.
SAVES: CH-Loeffler 5; MSJ-Deshong 3.