LYNN — Another day, another strong showing from the St. Mary’s Spartans (5-0-2) as they kept their undefeated season alive with a 3-0 win against Cardinal Spellman at Manning Field.
“I think it was a great team effort,” St. Mary’s coach Eddie Kisakye said after Wednesday’s game. “Overall, [I’m] very proud of the boys.”
That team effort was on display right from the jump, as the Spartans dominated the opposition with their passing and ball-protection. The pressure led to a plethora of offensive opportunities, including six corner kicks in the first 40 minutes of play.
Spellman’s freshman goalkeeper, Koen Poulter, did his best in net throughout, stopping multiple scoring chances, but the Spartans finally broke through and took the lead with four minutes remaining in the half.
After some strong passes downfield, captain Hakeem Akande (goal, 2 assists) used his speed on the outside to send in a low cross, finding the feet of Nick Miller (2 goals) who smashed it home for the 1-0 lead.
Even with the halftime advantage, Kisakye wanted more from his squad with how many chances it was generating.
“It was a frustrating first half, but our patience paid off in the second half,” he said. “We made a few adjustments which I feel… opened up the game a little bit more for us.”
The main halftime adjustment was moving Akande from his usual defensive position to an attacking wing, which worked wonders for the Spartans.
Just six minutes into the second half, it was Akande and Miller linking up yet again. Akande’s cutthroat pass found Miller for an easy finish, good for a 2-0 Spartans’ lead.
And like any good captain would, Akande credited his teammate.
“I know if I play the ball to [Miller], it’s going to get to him,” Akande said. “[Miller] is always going to be there. He’s the fastest player on the field the majority of the time.”
Ten minutes later, Akande produced another, but this time, all by himself. Using his speed and foot skills to his benefit, he burned down the right side, slipped past a defender, and tucked away the finish (3-0) to seal the deal for the hosts.
Spartans’ coach Shane McCarran spoke on the halftime switch that moved Akande to the attack position, which he acknowledged was imperative in the victory.
“He’s actually our right back,” McCarran said. “We played him up in a different position and noticed he stepped up.”
As for Akande, he was ready to step up in any way he could.
“I usually love playing defense, but this opportunity came, so I chose to play as [my coaches] asked me to,” he said.
Offense wasn’t the only story, though, as senior center back Cade Cornell played an integral role on Wednesday, cleaning up any ball that rolled through the Spartans’ defensive zone.
“I think defense is our core. We are always confident going into games that [the defense] is going to do its job,” Kisakye said.
The coaches also spoke on their big test coming up Friday night at Malden Catholic (6 p.m.).
“We need to capitalize on our opportunities. We create a lot, but we need to be effective when in front of [the] goal,” Kisakye said. “For us to see the kinds of goals that we scored today, I feel like it’s progress in the right direction.”