Proving they’re more than just one trick ponies, the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags are stating their case on the senior boys soccer pitch early in the season.
With a half-dozen basketball players and another half-dozen rugby athletes in the lineup, the Blue Jags are off to an impressive 3-0 start to the Lower Island high school soccer season.
Their latest victim was the previously undefeated Claremont Spartans (now 1-1-1) as the Blue Jags rolled to a 4-2 win on a wet pitch at Frank’s Field at Lochside Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Coach Wes Barrett’s Blue Jags were impressive in the first half, building up a 3-1 lead on goals by Michael Baart and Brian Im, with an own Claremont goal sandwiched in between. The first half was a brilliant display of quick touches and strong runs.
“It’s been a good start to the season,” said Barrett. “The boys pass the ball pretty well. We lost it there for a bit when they made it 3-2. We might have been a little too slack, but that goal woke us up a little and we went back into our passing game, keeping the ball away.”
Baart opened the scoring with a chip over Claremont keeper Cam Olive before Lalo Chavez tied it up for the Spartans.
An errant own header redirected the ball by Olive for the 2-1 lead before Baart masterfully set up Im for a tap-in after eluding a pair of Claremont defenders wide and making the cross from near the touch line.
Connor Phillips cut it to 3-2 on an uncontested header that eluded SMUS keeper Aidan McCleary, before Kieran Large restored the two-goal cushion for the Blue Jags, who have just two Grade 12s in the lineup in Baart and William Cai.
“Kieran Large, our anchoring centre midfielder, gets everything together in terms of keeping the ball moving forward and Brian and Michael are both very strong attacking players,” added Barrett, who says he sees a lot of parity in the league.
The Blues Jags did lose to Glenlyon Norfolk School at a recent Independent Schools Association tournament. Up 4-1 with eight minutes to go, SMU allowed GNS to tie it up and then lost in penalty kicks.
Prior to Tuesday’s action, GNS — a perennial contender — had yet to record a victory with two ties in two games.
Claremont, GNS, Lambrick Park, Belmont, Reynolds, Stelly’s and Oak Bay round out Tier I.
“It was a good battle, they have a very nice team and they like to play the right way,” Claremont coach Will Moore said of SMUS’ attacking style. “I thought we battled back well and carried the play for some of the second half there. We couldn’t score, they came down on a counter [attack] and sunk us.
“We’re still growing. It’s early in the season,” said Moore, whose team defeated Lambrick and tied GNS.
Reynolds and Oak Bay drew 2-2 on Tuesday as both teams are still looking for their first official wins of the season.
Oak Bay had actually won their first two matches, but coach Richard Fast — who is also the league commissioner — voluntarily took the victories away once he was made aware one of his players would not be available for the entire semester, which goes against league rules.
Reynolds has two ties in its two outings.
In Tier II play on Tuesday, Parkland defeated SMUS B 5-1. Esquimalt, Spectrum, St. Andrews, Vic High and Mount Douglas round out the second tier.
The season continues until the third week of October when Colonist Cup play commences. Island championships are slated for Oct. 18-19 in single-A; Nov. 5-6 at SMUS for double-A; and Nov. 5-6 at Dover Bay for triple-A.