Late handball penalty costs Tigers in 2-1 loss to West Shore

Holy Trinity's Aidan Bovelsky goes up for a header during Friday night's game against West Shore. The Tigers scored first, but it was West Shore that would come away with a 2-1 victory.

Anyone who has ever watched a West Shore-Holy Trinity boys soccer game knew exactly what to expect Friday night.

It was going to be very physical, a little chippy (particularly in the stands) and something crazy will probably happen.

That certainly was the case in the latest matchup between the two bitter rivals as they played hard all night only to have the game ultimately decided by a handball in the box called on Holy Trinity in the final five minutes.

West Shore converted the penalty kick and came away with a 2-1 victory – the Wildcats’ first over the Tigers since Dec. 1, 2017.

“I never know what’s going to happen in these ones. They’re always fun to coach in, win or lose,” Holy Trinity coach Adrian Moreno said. “I think this is the first time they beat us in six tries. It was fun. I enjoy these games. I don’t like going out and winning games easily. It’s more fun to have competitiveness, having a rivalry.”

Sophomore Keegan Harrison scored on an assist from sophomore Vikram Sabapathy less than three minutes into the game to give the Tigers (4-1) an early 1-0 lead.

Holy Trinity had a number of chances to add to its lead, but couldn’t finish against West Shore’s defense. It also didn’t help the Tigers that they lost standout defender Hayden Van Kramer to an injury early in the first half, though his replacement, Cooper Euziere, played well.

Finally, with 20:02 to play, the Wildcats tied the game on a perfectly executed pass toward the far post in the box that was put home.

It was the first goal given up this season by Holy Trinity, which had outscored opponents 16-0 in its previous four games.

West Shore (4-0-2) kept pressing forward and eventually got rewarded when the handball was called with 5:20 to play. Once the Wildcats got the lead, their defense did a nice job of keeping the Tigers at bay to close out the game and set off a boisterous West Shore celebration.

“We had a lot of decent chances,” Moreno said. “That was probably one of our biggest problems tonight. We just didn’t finish our opportunities when we had them.

“We finished the first one we had right at the beginning of the game. That set the tone. In the first half, we had a lot of chances to do it as well and we just couldn’t finish what we needed to do. It’s something we need to work on as we go forward.”

Friday night was just the latest chapter in this chippy rivalry, and if history repeats itself, these two teams will meet once again in the Class 3A, District 10 championship game.

After West Shore’s win in 2017, the teams did not play the following season. Since then, they have met six times in the regular season and playoffs with Holy Trinity holding a 4-0-2 edge before Friday night.

Of those six meetings, three have come in the district tournament – including the past two championship games – with the Tigers prevailing each time in a shootout.

Could we be in for another incredible district final matchup? Only time will tell. But perhaps that’s why the Tigers seemed to be taking what happened Friday night in stride.

“(I told them) that it’s not that big of a deal,” Moreno said. “One loss … it’s early on in the season. I expected to lose one or two games here and there. I didn’t think we were going to have a perfect season with the teams that I always schedule.

“(And I told them) to remember the moment, when they went off celebrating like this was the biggest thing for them. They finally beat us. I was like, ‘Look, it’s one game. We’ll bounce back from this. We’ve got a bunch of games next week.’

“I said, ‘We’ve got see if they can do it when it matters – in the district final.’ That’s what I told them. We’re looking at that prize. They’re looking at this.”

Holy Trinity is set to return to action Monday at Melbourne Central Catholic, followed by a game next Friday afternoon in Port St. Lucie against Centennial.

“We were doing pretty well (coming into tonight),” Moreno said. “We hadn’t had a goal scored on us yet until tonight. We were pretty solid in the back. Losing Hayden really hurt us, but Cooper stepped up and played really well.

“I think our flaws were shown tonight in the sense of we’re a small team. I can’t make the kids grow. I’m hoping by the time Keegan’s a senior, all these kids sprout and become like Keegan (who is listed as 6-feet, 145 pounds). It would be amazing.”