Aquinas chills St. James in ‘Pinkout’ showdown
Overland Park If not for the cause of breast cancer awareness, the annual “Pinkout” girls soccer showdown between St. James Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas could have been renamed “freezeout.”
Temperatures plunged into the 40s, a light drizzle fell and a heavy wind whipped across the field Wednesday night at Saints Stadium. In fact, the only thing hot was the level of competition as the Catholic rivals met in a rematch of last year’s Class 5-1A state championship game.
Unlike the state finals, however, St. James came up on the losing end in a 3-1 decision.
“It was a well played game tonight despite the difficult conditions,” SJA coach Rick Enna said. “The conditions and wind definitely had an impact on the game. They got the wind in the first half and it was a very stiff wind, but in spite of that I felt that the game was played very evenly. I thought both teams fought hard, and they certainly had the edge I think because of the wind.”
St. James generated a handful of serious offensive threats in the first half, but the Thunder had trouble clearing the ball into the wind for most of the half. That, combined with Aquinas’ relentless pursuit of the ball, didn’t bode well for the Thunder.
The game was scoreless for 14 minutes, but the Saints capitalized in the 15th minute as junior Nicky Alfonsin unleashed a shot from about 25 yards out that hit the right post and banked into the net for a 1-0 Aquinas lead.
St. James regrouped and mustered two strong attacks at the other end, one that ended with a shot by junior Bethany Smith that sailed just over the crossbar.
Aquinas struck again in the 29th minute when the Saints forced a turnover and fed the ball to Chloe Mugg. The junior striker drilled a shot into the net from 18 yards out to make it 2-0.
Senior wingback Amanda Nelson scored two minutes later when she headed home a corner kick by senior wingback Nikki Fontana to give the Saints a 3-0 lead that stood through halftime.
“I thought both teams challenged hard and challenged everything,” Enna said. “We made three mistakes in the first half. We gave the ball away on our end twice and we missed a mark on a cornerkick. You can’t do that against a great team. They capitalized on those three mistakes and had three great finishes.”
St. James had the wind at its back in the second half, and took advantage while scoring a goal of its own. The Thunder had a few good opportunities, but only junior Bethany Smith managed to put the ball past Aquinas sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Castinado.
Enna said he thought his team ran out of gas during the final 15 minutes as its comeback bid came up short.
Aquinas improved to 5-0-1 with the victory. St. James dropped to 0-3.
“I think when good teams play, more often than not you’ll see a pretty even game but the team that makes the fewest mistakes ends up winning,” Enna said. “Tonight, Aquinas capitalized on our mistakes. They’re the number one team in the state in our class right now according to the rankings and I have no argument with that.”
St. James next plays at 6:15 p.m. Friday against Tulsa (Okla.) Union in the first round of the Heart of America Classic at Rockhurst University.