Penalty kick was key in last season’s championship win over Cathedral Catholic.
When it came down to penalty kicks to decide last year’s section final, Joe Saad stepped up first for St. Augustine High.
Saad converted his shot, as did all of his teammates, as the Saints used a 5-4 edge on PKs to top parochial rival Cathedral Catholic for the San Diego Section Division III soccer crown after pulling even 1-1 by scoring with six minutes left in regulation.
Though seeded just sixth in the section playoffs, St. Augustine went on from there to win the Southern California Regional championship.
“Last season was an awesome success,” said Saad, now a senior and a third-year varsity member. “It meant a lot to us personally and a lot to our school. It will always be remembered, but now we’re focused on the upcoming year and not looking back.”
Saad enters his second season as a team captain and also returns as a center defender, each role putting him right in the middle of things for the Saints.
“In a lot of ways, he’s the heart and soul of our team,” St. Augustine coach Brendan Johnston said. “He has tenacity and soccer IQ, understanding game situations. Also, he’s just a good guy in our community at school.”
Ahead for Saad is college soccer at Saint Louis University, the iconic school that won 10 NCAA championships from 1959-73. After a recent downturn, the Billikens went 16-5 last season for their most wins since 2001.
“I wanted a city vibe, not just a college town, and when you stand on the field, you can actually see the (Gateway) Arch,” said Saad, who plans to enroll in pharmaceutical studies. “It’s a good place for me to really grow as a soccer player.”
First, Saad is completing a prep career that has encompassed three sports each year, including cross country since his freshman year and track before switching to tennis last spring. He also competes in club soccer most of the year.
“I’ve always been doing two sports at the same time,” said Saad, who resides in Point Loma. “In soccer, we’re competing at a high level. There’s a lot of pressure, so it’s fun to take a step back and play other sports.”
Both of Saad’s parents are natives of South Africa, so he especially enjoyed a visit to the family homeland two years ago for soccer’s World Cup and saw two of the early games.
“They were incredible games,” Saad said. “It was all something else. One night, we blew the air horns so much.”
Now he hopes to celebrate with the Saints in their quest for a repeat title.
“I’ve always been taught growing up to lead by example and expect a lot from everyone,” Saad said. “When they look to me, I try to give them everything that I have.”