Park wrestles out a win

Boys soccer defeats Benilde 2-1


Mya Stanberry

Sophomore Johnny Ryan fights for the ball with the Red Knights. Park dominated Benilde St. Margret 2-1 at 7:00 o.m. Sept. 15 at the St. Louis Park High School Stadium.

Maren Wilsey and Anna Williams

After last year’s matchup, where Park took the win as the underdog, Benilde St. Margarets was looking for a second chance Sept 15. Narrowly beating them out with a 2-1 win, Park wouldn’t let them have it. 

Head coach Anson Opara said he was impressed with the team’s performance, especially their perseverance when things got tough.

“The first half went really well. The second half we had a little bit of a lull where we got into a space where we weren’t trying to pass the ball, where we had to play out of the defense for a long time. Then towards the end of the game, playing got physical,” Opara said. “(It) definitely got a little edgy and chippy between the two teams so we had to rise above that and finish the game.”

Senior Isaac Cantor had similar thoughts on the game, sharing that he was proud of the team’s determination and focus, which allowed them to play for each other.

“At the end, it got pretty intense and Benilde started talking to us,” said Cantor. “While they were yelling insults and telling us we sucked, we were focused on beating them. Then, we won.”

According to Opara, as the team continues with their season they plan to work on focusing on their own playing and keeping their heads in the game.

“The big pieces are to make sure we finish the game and are able to control the things that we can control. Then the things that are out of our control, (we’ve got to) let go and not get upset about (them),” said Opara. “After our first goal, we let up a goal immediately and I think (that was) just a lack of focus. So, we’re going to talk more about staying focused throughout the whole game.”

Senior captain Luis Benitez said he was very happy with the team’s performance, especially in the final minutes of the game.

“(The biggest highlight) would have to be the ending,” Benitez said. “We finished the game strong. I am just really proud of the team.”

Opara said his personal highlights didn’t just include the play on the field, but the camaraderie off the field as well.

“The goals were great. Watching the defense play the ball constantly out of trouble was amazing,” said Opara. “(I loved seeing) the team cheering on the bench that wasn’t in — it was really nice to see just how invested they are in the team.”

According to Opara, his transition into the position of head coach has been gratifying and he feels supported by the close community of both players and coaches.

“It was crazy, replacing somebody like Chato (Alverez), who has been here for like 21 years,” said Opara. “But I have really good staff around me, and the kids are great. It’s been really enjoyable for me.”

Although the team recognizes that there are things to improve on going into the next game, Benitez said they are also optimistic and are looking forward to growing stronger as a team.

“I just am proud of the community we’ve built and the team, in general,” said Benitez. “Everyone’s pushing each other and building each other up and it’s a fun environment to be in.”

Park will be back in action 5:00 p.m. Sept. 19 at Chaska Middle School West.