WILMINGTON — Salesianum and Saint Mark’s were neck-and-neck into the 50th minute of their soccer battle Oct. 5 at Abessinio Stadium, but the Sals took advantage of set-play opportunities to open it up and capture the 6-1 victory.
The game drew a large crowd to Abessinio on a pleasant evening. The Sals’ student section was its normally loud self, and they were matched by the contingent of Spartans students and cheerleaders at the other end of the bleachers. It was a playoff atmosphere.
Sallies led, 2-1, at the half, and Spartans goalkeeper Ryan Betts kept it that way with a diving save in the 46th minute. The Sals earned a corner kick after the save, but a defender made a stop on another shot that eluded Betts.
Saint Mark’s was not as fortunate on the next corner kick, which came in the 50th. Paris Pappas sent his inbounds pass high toward the crease, where Betts was able to punch the ball. Gianluca Marroni was positioned perfectly, however, and headed the ball over a lunging Betts into the net for the 3-1 advantage.
Five minutes after that, the Sals struck again. This time, they did their damage on a free kick from 30 yards out to the left of the keeper. Marroni sent the ball into the 18-yard-box, where Justin Hinds went up to deflect it into the net.
The Spartans had a few chances to cut into the lead in the second half, but the Sals held. Zach Bittner came up with a save on a free kick after Hinds’ goal, and he saved his best work for a few minutes later. A foul in the box resulted in a Saint Mark’s penalty kick in the 63rd minute, but Bittner guessed right and stopped a shot low and to his right, earning a roar of approval from his schoolmates in the bleachers.
The final two goals of the evening belonged to the Sals’ Jake Ross, giving him a hat trick for the night. He took an inbounds pass from Tanner Brentlinger on a corner kick in the 71st and fired it under the crossbar, and two minutes later he converted a long through ball from Aiden Gonzalez for the final tally of the night.
The game was barely two minutes old when the Sals opened the scoring. Pappas completed a Salesianum counter, taking a crossing pass from Gannon Tolmie and heading it in from a sharp angle to make it 1-0. Pappas just missed on a free kick in the fourth, and Betts came up with a few stellar saves in the early going. There wasn’t much he could do in the 15th minute, when Marroni intercepted a Spartans pass and headed downfield and sent a cross toward the net. The ball was back-tapped by Colin McGhee into the left post, but Ross was in the right spot to drill the loose ball home to double the lead.
Saint Mark’s tightened the defense after that, stopping a number of Sallies offensive forays with an aggressive defense. They used that defense to create chances, and it paid off in the 27th. Nicky Carrell carried the ball down low and sent a pass into the middle of the 18-yard box, where Michael Smyth was waiting to drill the ball into the net.
The Sals had advantages of 15-6 in shots and 7-2 in corner kicks. Bittner had four saves. Salesianum improved to 7-1 and hosts C. Milton Wright (Md.) on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
For Saint Mark’s, Betts finished with eight saves. The Spartans (8-1) face another challenge on Saturday, when currently undefeated Delcastle pays a visit for a noon matchup.
All photos by Mike Lang.