Kickers fend off Blanchet, 1-0

The Spartans are now 7-0-2, after a 2-1 road win over O’Dea earlier in the week.

Bainbridge won its first two Mountain Division contests this week, traveling to O’Dea for a 2-1 win Tuesday, then shutting out last year’s champs, Bishop Blanchet, in a home battle Thursday.

Still undefeated, the Spartans (7-0-2, 2-0-1 in divison play) are one point behind leader Eastside Catholic (6-0-2, 2-0-2), who this week blanked Seattle Prep 5-0.

Bain­bridge, meanwhile, snuck by Bishop Blanchet 1-0 on a solid performance to close out the week.

“We’re building momentum,” coach Anh Tran said. “We’ve still got a long way to go. This conference has some good teams, so we’ve got to keep working and stay focused.”

In their first exam of the week, the Spartans downed the Irish 2-1, on two goals by senior captain Zach Mallove for their first division win.

“Getting that first one was important,” Tran said. “I’m proud of the guys getting it done on the road.”

Amine Ramadan fed Mallove in the 13th minute to get Bainbridge the early lead on the quick surface of the Queen Anne Bowl.

The Spartan defense proved resilient against the O’Dea press.

Spartan goalkeeper Alex Bolt made five saves, and welcomed help from the post, which absorbed at least two shots. Sweeper Zach Conner was anchored by Francis Waplinger and Will O’Donnell on the wings.

Mallove put things away 66 minutes in, when on an assist up the middle by Jesse Burk-Rafel, he scorched his second strike into the far right corner.

O’Dea avoided the shutout when David Raney carved one in from six yards out in the 77th minute.

“The guys are hitting on all cylinders,” said an exhilarated Mallove after the O’Dea match. “We’re all pulling together, and that’s the key.”

Then it was on to the next test, Thursday against Bishop Blanchet.

At home, Bain­bridge slowed the Braves attack with a smothering defense, giving front-runners and midfielders alike little room to move en route to the 1-0 victory.

Tyler Church pounced on the rebound of a shot by Burk-Rafel in the 15th minute to best Braves keeper Brendan McNutt, who had previously recorded four shutouts.

The Spartans had to work the full 65 remaining minutes to help Bolt claim his own fourth shutout and to hold up the narrow margin for the win.

Rather than bunkering in on defense, Bainbridge continued to press, looking for the goal that would put it away.

Winning the battle for possession at midfield more often than the Braves, Bainbridge kept pressure off their goalkeeper. Bolt faced five shots, while the Spartans peppered McNutt at the other end with 11 shots.

Stopping the Blanchet (5-2-1) offense, which came into the game with nine goal scorers, was a team effort, led on the day by the defense.

“It was a team win,” Tran said. “Yet credit Zach Conner in the back. He held down the middle for us.”

For his part, Conner credited the drive demonstrated by his team.

“Desire,” said Conner of his team’s hustle up and down the field. “That’s what you’re seeing.”

Steady improvement has been evident in the team’s consistent play.

While the whole team has been helping with full-field defensive pressure, the midfielders have been holding the ball while the attackers continue to make the forward runs.

Bainbridge next travels to Seattle Prep, playing at Lower Woodland on April 21, before hosting O’Dea in what promises to be an interesting return match on April 26.

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