Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Serra striker Nick Schnabel scored three goals and assisted on a fourth as the Padres beat
Sacred Heart Cathedral 5-2 Wednesday afternoon. The Padres improve to 3-0 in WCAL play.
Every soccer player has practiced juggling the ball with their feet, turning, and unleashing a shot.
Serra striker Nick Schnabel took that to another level Wednesday afternoon as he helped lead the Padres to a 5-2 win over visiting Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The win improves Serra’s record to 3-0 in West Catholic Athletic League play and 7-1 overall.
“That’s been our thing all year,” said Serra coach Jeff Panos. “We’ve been scoring a ton of goals.”
It’s the third time in four games the Padres have scored five goals or more and their second straight in WCAL play.
Schnabel has a lot to do with that. The senior recorded the third hat trick of the season and assisted on a fourth against the Irish (2-0, 3-4).
It was his final tally that was world class. Serra defender Alex Avila sent a long clearing ball out of the Padres’ defense end past midfield. Schnabel ran onto the ball, controlling it with his back to the goal and a defender on him. Schnabel scooped the ball up with his foot, juggled it three times as he made the turn to his right. He beat the defender and slotted a shot past the sliding goalkeeper and into the net for the Padres’ fifth goal of the game.
“I just did what I could do to get inside,” Schnabel said.
Schnabel not only closed the scoring for Serra, he opened it as well. Just three minutes into the match, senior forward Gerald Ingemansson chased down a ball along the left sideline. He carried it to the end line before whipping a cross into the middle of the Irish penalty box — where Schnabel was waiting to tap it in for a 1-0 Serra lead.
Panos said that it was the fifth time this year the Padres scored in the opening four minutes of a game.
“We’ve just learned to come out strong (to start the game),” Schnabel said. “We’ve learned to give it our all from the beginning.”
Panos credits his team taking advantage of a plethora of offensive options whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“This is one of the best offenses I’ve had. I think we can beat people multiple ways,” Panos said. “We’re not one dimensional. [Opponents] can’t just cover one guy.
“I think team speed is a big factor (in our fast starts). We come ready to play. If you’re even half asleep (at the beginning of the game), we’ll make you pay.”
The Padres’ offensive output has taken some of the pressure off a sometimes shaky defensive line. The Irish scored both their goals on defensive breakdowns in the first half. But over the final 40 minutes, the Padres’ back line was mostly solid.
The midfield also does a good job of relieving pressure on their defensive teammates. Patrick Philpott, especially, has a knack for winning loose balls and then transitioning the Padres from defense to offense from his defensive midfielder spot.
After Schnabel’s first strike, SHC found the equalizer in the 17th minute. Serra failed to clear a ball and SHC’s Spencer Johnson got behind the defense and pounced on the loose ball. With only goalkeeper Logan Wolf to beat, Johnson tried to slip a shot between Wolf’s leg, but was denied. A rebound trickled behind the goalie, and Johnson stayed with the play and scored into the empty net.
Serra got the goal back five minutes later. Ingemansson, again, made a long run down the left flank, before curling a cross into the Irish penalty box. Schnabel and David Tillack were both crashing the far post, with Tillack sending a pass back into the middle of the penalty box. Michael Neher was waiting there, unmarked, and he nonchalantly headed the ball home for a 2-1 Serra advantage.
But the Irish did not shrink. Instead, they found the equalizer, again, just before halftime, with Richard Engelbrecht sneaking into the penalty box unmarked and heading home a cross from Johnson on a free kick.
The Padres did not allow the Irish to capitalize on that momentum coming out of halftime as Serra regained the lead eight minutes into the second half.
This time it was Schnabel initiating the attack. He received a pass with his back to the goal 25 yards away. He held off the defender, made the turn and slotted a perfect diagonal pass into the path of Nick Bucher, who was running into the box from the right wing.
Bucher’s first shot was saved, but he beat the defender to the rebound and booted it into the far left corner of the net for a 3-2 Serra advantage.
Eleven minutes later, Schnabel got his second goal. Ingemansson sent a corner kick into the Irish penalty box where it was headed high in the air. The ball bounced once and Schnabel hit it on the half-volley, through traffic and into the net.
Schnabel completed his hat trick nine minutes later.
Despite his play, Schnabel sees himself as just one part of the Padres’ potent offense.
“We have a very well-rounded offense,” Schnabel said. “We don’t depend on any one person.”