Still early in the season, St. Ignatius High School has met some lofty expectations and continued to impress with a 4-0 win over visiting Palo Alto High School on Tuesday.
The defending West Catholic Athletic League champion Wildcats (2-0) were ranked by multiple preseason publications as one of the best teams in the state, and showed their clout in an impressive second half that featured three goals.
“I learned today that we have a pretty potent attack,” second-year St. Ignatius coach Sean-Michael Callahan said. “I think we’re better on the attack than last year, but we knew there would be some question marks on the defensive side.”
The St. Ignatius defense did have some breakdowns early against Palo Alto, but the Vikings (3-2) could not take advantage, often missing the net or struggling to get a shot off. Palo Alto would not have a shot on net in the entire game.
“We had some opportunities, but we couldn’t capitalize on them,” Palo Alto coach Don Briggs said. “If you miss those, it’s hard to get back in the game. You have to take advantage of the chances and they did.”
The St. Ignatius attack was led by senior Jimmy Callinan, who had two goals in the second half.
His first came off a long goal kick in the 49th minute that was chipped forward by senior midfielder Sean Prior, who found Callinan sneaking behind the Palo Alto defense and goalkeeper Austin Shiou. Callinan, all alone, then rolled the ball in from 15 yards out.
The second was also initiated off the foot of Prior, who sent a free kick on net from 25 yards out in the 74th minute. Shiou made the initial save, but Callinan was there for the rebound and tapped the ball past a sliding Shiou.
Callinan made consistent runs throughout the game, many of which came on long passes off goal kicks and clearances.
“It’s really a different style than we played last year, but I think we have the players to do it,” Callinan said. “I’ve been on the [varsity] team for the past three years and in the last two years I’ve been kind of a bystander, but this year I want to be involved in every single goal and lead the team.”
Callinan was also involved in the Wildcats’ first goal, which came in the 27th minute. He broke past a Palo Alto defender and was fouled in the penalty area, setting up a penalty kick by senior Cullen Roche.
Shiou actually made the diving save on the penalty kick, but the ball caromed right back to Roche, who volleyed the ball into the top half of the net before Palo Alto defenders could intervene.
The Wildcats don’t have much time to exhale, however, as they begin WCAL play Saturday when they face Mitty on the road.
“We can’t ask for a better start, but the issue is that our league is so big and athletic, that it’s hard to mirror what we’re going to face,” Callahan said. “We’re ready to bang with all of them and we’re really excited about the product we’re putting out on the field this year.”
Preps sports coverage provided in partnership by The San Francisco Examiner and www.SanFranPreps.com