St. Anthony's celebrate its victory over Regis in the CHSAA boys...

St. Anthony's celebrate its victory over Regis in the CHSAA boys soccer state final at St. John's on Nov. 12. Credit: Anna Sergeeva

New month, new team.

Everything changed for St. Anthony's boys soccer on Oct. 1.

That's when coach Don Corrao called a team meeting and handed out a document flooded with inspirational nuggets, prompting each player to “win the day” and embrace the “process." It was his way of motivating a Friars team that was 6-5 and facing uncertainty about how to salvage their season.  . 

“We knew we were better than what we had showed in September,” Corrao said. “We always tackle the season in three parts: training camp through September [is] season No. 1, season No. 2 is October and the playoffs are No. 3.”

Seasons 2 and 3 were flawless.

St. Anthony’s (19-5) won 13 straight games to end the season en route to its first CHSAA state title since 2019, capped by a penalty-kick win over Regis in the final on Nov. 12. The Friars scored 53 goals and allowed just five during the win streak. 

“The coaches were giving a nice speech, and the kids, I think, really took that to heart because we all knew that we were capable of more and at the time we weren’t showing it,” sophomore goalie Cole Lawrence said. “ I think that after that speech and that first win in October … I felt a spark in myself and I’m sure all my other teammates did, too. And that’s why we ended up where we are now.”

Lawrence finished the season with 88 saves and 13 shutouts, including nine in the Friars’ final 13 games. Every Friar has a nickname, and Lawrence’s is “puppy” because of his youth. He relied on advice from his elders all season long.

“During tryouts, [senior captains] Joe [Joannou] and John [Oualaalou] were the first people to come up to me and were like, ‘We’ve been in this position and we’re always here for you if you need anything. We know how it feels,’ ” Lawrence said.

One of the key changes Corrao made after the Oct. 1 meeting was to move Joannou up from defender to form a “lethal combination” with Oualaalou on offense. Both players starred in 2023, though the duo never played extended stretches together. Oualaalou missed nine games with a concussion, and Joannou was knocked out with a knee injury in the NSCHSAA semifinals.

“Those are two very, very special players,” Corrao said.

Oualaalou finished with 13 goals and seven assists, and Joannou had 11 goals and three assists. Both players played three years on varsity, losing in the 2022 state final but capturing their ultimate goal this fall.

Corrao has adopted the tagline, “Tradition never graduates,” a nod to the winning culture the Friars hope to embody year in and year out.

“When we took the field from that [meeting] on, our approach was, ‘We’re playing in a championship game tonight,’ ” Corrao said. “… They put the work in and we got the result. And you always got to be a little lucky, too.”

St. Anthony's Road To The State Championship:

NSCHSAA semifinal – Beat Kellenberg, 1-0

NSCHSAA final – Beat Chaminade, 1-0

CHSAA state semifinal – Beat St. Joseph’s Collegiate (Buffalo), 2-0

CHSAA state final – Tied Regis, 1-1 (St. Anthony’s wins on penalty kicks, 5-4)

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