Coach's goalie hunch key for Gaels in MIAA title game

November 12, 2009

The Mount St. Joseph boys soccer team is the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion, thanks in part to gutsy defense, poise and a key decision by coach Mike St. Martin that enabled the No. 3 Gaels to get past No. 1 McDonogh on penalty kicks Monday.

St. Martin watched senior goalie Brad Benzing make eight saves - a number of them brilliant - during 100 minutes of scoreless play. But when it came to who would be in goal for the deciding shootout, St. Martin went to his unconventional source, David Arnold.

With Benzing sidelined in the semifinals against Calvert Hall, St. Martin had turned to Arnold - 6 feet 5 with uncanny athleticism - during the shootout, and he responded with three saves despite not having played in goal since he was 11 years old.

With Benzing back and playing well Monday, the decision was much tougher.

"My assistant coaches and I started talking about it, throwing Brad out there, but I just felt the hot hand was Dave," St. Martin said. "He's a lot taller, more imposing and he's just phenomenal. He's just a brilliant kid who knows which way to go - I don't know how he does it."

Arnold, who was humble and a bit stunned after the game, started a post-game interview by saying: "I don't know what Coach was thinking ... " and finishing with: "Credit Coach St. Martin - he made all the right moves."

The Gaels finished the season 13-3-3, losing just one game in regulation. They beat McDonogh (20-3) during the regular season when the Eagles were undefeated and No. 1 in the country, and beat them a second time to spoil their bid for a third straight conference title.

- Glenn Graham

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