End of the road: JPII, PCA pushed from playoff pitch
The John Paul II boys soccer team advanced to the TAPPS Division I Finals last season before ultimately losing to Fort Worth Nolan, 3-1.
Despite graduating 11 seniors (nine starters) from that squad, the Cardinals rolled into the 2012-13 season believing they could win that one extra match and attain the program's first state title.
"We knew we weren't as deep as we were last year," said Jamie DeWitt, second-year head coach, "but I still felt confident with the young group we had this year."
But John Paul's state title dreams ended Saturday in a 1-0 area playoff loss to Houston St. Thomas with the host team scoring in the last minute of regulation.
"That was a tough loss as I felt we were the better team and I know the boys were disappointed too," DeWitt said. "We really dominated the field of play, but could not find the net. It was the story of our season: great defense and little offense."
That included another strong performance from junior goalkeeper Pato Espinosa.
"Pato was our most consistent player all year," DeWitt said.
A John Paul win would have meant a rematch with Nolan in the regionals.
"We felt like we matched up well with them [Nolan]," DeWitt said. "We tied them, 0-0, and lost to them, 1-0, this year and both were great games."
Saturday's result was part of a tough week for the city's private school soccer teams.
The Prestonwood Christian Academy boys lost in the area round to San Antonio Central Catholic (3-1) Feb. 28 at Mary Hardin-Baylor while the Lady Lions were defeated in the same portion of their bracket by district champion Houston St. Agnes (3-0). The John Paul girls lost to 22-time defending TAPPS State Champions Ursuline, 1-0, in Tuesday's regional from the University of Texas-Dallas after opening the playoffs Feb. 28 with a 2-1 road win over Beaumont Kelly.
In the case of the John Paul boys, injuries hampered the season.
The Cardinals lost central-midfielders Robbie Guzman (senior) and Connor Shoevlin (sophomore) to ankle injuries and junior forward Stephen Bevilacqua to a hip injury.
"I think [the season as a whole] was not what we expected," DeWitt said. "This year was just a tough year for the boys with injuries and it was hard to fill those roles. All season we started two freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors and two seniors."
That could pay dividends for John Paul going forward though with returning all-district selections in Espinosa (first team), junior defender Tyge Sheehan (second team), junior defender Matt Myers (second team), Shoevlin (second team), Bevilacqua (second team) and freshman defender Ryan Mackey (honorable mention). The Cardinals' lone all-district pick to graduate is Guzman (honorable mention).
"We have a great nucleus coming back," DeWitt said, "so this will be good for us next year as we have mostly everything in place and will just be working to better our strength and skill over the summer.
"And once again next year we will be looking at going back to finish what we started: a state championship run."