St. Paul rallies past Spartans

Peter Silas Pasqua
East Ascension’s Blake Parr drives downfield in the first half of St. Paul’s 4-3 victory Thursday night.

COVINGTON – East Ascension raced out to a 2-0 lead but gave up three goals in the final 25 minutes and fell to St. Paul 4-3 in the Division I regionals at Harris Stadium Thursday night.

“We knew it was going to be a long game,” East Ascension head coach Rueben Ruiz said. “We know what kind of team they are. Offensively, we did some things we didn’t expect we would able to do but we never really got into our game plan. Down the stretch, we just didn’t protect the lead and that cost us.”

Anthony Saltalamaccia scored on a breakaway that East Ascension goal keeper Chad Leodler tipped but bounced in one minute into the second half to cut the Spartans’ lead to 2-1.

“Once they got that goal, they knew they could score and kept coming and our defense played just a little too aggressively and they ended up getting the right runs in the right places at the right time,” Ruiz said. “We kept our starters on the field a lot more than usual. We were getting a little tired but once they took the lead, we just didn’t have the get up and go to push it like earlier.”

Samir Martinez put East Ascension ahead 3-1 eight minutes later driving 30 yards through two defenders before hitting the right corner.

“At that point, the kids knew they could play with this team and it was only a matter of time,” St. Paul head coach Trevor Watkins said. “We needed a quick goal to start the second half so we moved some people up to try and get the momentum. We risked it.”

St. Paul answered six minutes later when Scott Mayer converted on a breakaway past a diving Leodler. Saltalamaccia nearly put a header in from Mayer’s drive to the corner before Mayer fed Raymond in front of the goal with 10:45 left to play to knot it up 3-3.

“(Mayer) sparked the kids,” Watkins said. “He was beating them outside and we knew that was their weakness. We just couldn’t get to them in the first half because we weren’t putting anything together. As soon as we began to find our outside wing to get around them stuff started to happen.”

The winning goal came four minutes later when Jordan Daigle fed Mayers in front of the goal from Lee.

East Ascension had two attempts on goal late but couldn’t convert. Blake Parr’s shot was wide left and Cesar Vallin’s free kick with under two minutes to play was high.

East Ascension quickly got on the board in the first half when Parr crossed inside to Vallin from the corner for a goal ess than four minutes in.

Mayer would take two attempts for St. Paul before Wolves’ goalie Bryan Bowers snatched Martinez’s shot.

Edwin Morales' turnaround off a rebound put East Ascension ahead 2-0 with 24 minutes left to play in the first half. Leodler then stopped Mayer’s breakaway and Saltalamaccia’s header attempt.

“We were on our heels most of the first half,” Watkins said. “We just couldn’t do anything. We were not in timing with each other and (Martinez) was giving us fits. We could do nothing right.”

Bowers stopped Morales’ breakaway before Mark Caragliano slipped past three Spartan defenders but failed to find goal. Justin Ruiz’s free kick and Martinez’s turnaround was snagged by Bowers before Parr was wide left on a breakaway.

Leodler tapped Mayers’ attempt before Saltalamaccia was wide left. Ruiz’s free kick failed just before half-time.

East Ascension’s seniors were members of two Division II championship game runs as freshmen and sophomores. 

“It is a special group of kids,” Ruiz said. “I have taught half of them since they were in the sixth grade and we knew they were going to be special when they came in as freshmen. It is all about the opportunity and chance to be apart of it.”

East Ascension’s Jared Hill drives downfield against St. Paul’s Mark Caragliano in the first half of the Wolves’ 4-3 Division I regional playoff victory Thursday night.