In the first game of the season against a nationally-ranked foe, the Saint Ignatius soccer program delivered a statement.
The Wildcats rolled past Louisville St. Xavier, dealing the Tigers a 5-0 loss at Capital University on Saturday afternoon.
From start to finish, the Wildcats dominated. Advancing to 6-0, the Soccer Cats roll into Wednesday's rivalry match vs. St. Edward with plenty of momentum.
Last season, Louisville St. Xavier fired out of the gates, scoring a goal in the first minute. The Wildcats later tied the game but could not secure the victory, ending the match in a 1-1 tie. The sour feeling lingered in the Wildcats' minds on Saturday, as the men of Ohio City were determined to not allow such a repeat.
"Last year, we gave it away. They scored in the first minute, and we went at them, but we couldn't put it away," said Head Coach Mike McLaughlin '85. "We were excited for our first national game of the season. This is a 'Start to prove yourself,' kind of game."
Nick Russo opened the scoring in the 10th minute for the Wildcats. The senior found himself one-one-one on the left side with a St. Xavier defender. The lefty kept the ball away from the defender and worked towards the net. As the goalie approached, Russo poked the ball to the left of the netminder for a 1-0 lead.
"Nick is having an incredible season," McLaughlin said. "He's changed our team because he's been healthy and able to contribute."
A left midfielder and left back for the Wildcats, Russo has been great for the Wildcats this year. A thoughtful player, Russo is making a large impact for McLaughlin's squad.
"We've seen it since he was a sophomore – he has a high soccer IQ. He's left-footed and has a really nice touch on the ball. When we play against teams, they put us under as much pressure as they can muster, because that's how you stop us. Nick is good under pressure and calm with the ball. It changes the game when you have guys who can relax and play."
The Wildcats held a 1-0 lead with strong play all over the field, peppering the Tigers with chances until Matthew McLaughlin broke through with two minutes left in the half.
The senior found an opening off a throw-in play. McLaughlin took advantage of a gap in the defense to punch the ball in, sending the Wildcats into the break with a 2-0 advantage.
At the half, the Wildcats made adjustments and schemed offensively. Everett Shorey was the central part of the plan.
The senior forward found space just a minute into the second half. Shorey dashed down the field on a 2 vs. 1 breakaway. McLaughlin passed it across to Shorey, who buried it into the back of the next.
Just two minutes later, Shorey did it again. The talented scorer bounded past his defender on the right side, opening space with trademark speed. Shorey sent a low shot on net that was saved by a diving stop by the goalie. However, the netminder failed to secure the ball, and Shorey came dashing in. On a pure hustle play, Shorey beat the Tigers' keeper and defenders, slotting it into the back of the net.
"When Everett is scoring, it changes the game," Coach McLaughlin said.
The Wildcats completed the scoring in the 46th minute. Matthew McLaughlin made a herculean effort to score. The captain took the ball 60 yards down the field, maintaining control while holding off the defenders. At the end of a long run, McLaughlin slotted it past the keeper for a 5-0 lead.
McLaughlin's impressive tally marked the final goal of the day.
The Wildcats stayed strong on defense to maintain a shutout, the fourth of the season for Saint Ignatius.
"We got the shutout on Saturday in part because Peter made some big saves. He needs to do that, and he has," said Coach McLaughlin said. "I don't want teams to score on us, plain and simple. If you can stop them from scoring, you have a chance. We're trying to keep the sheets as clean as possible. Statistically, you look at the teams that have won state championships, and it's pure numbers. If you give up less than so many goals, you have a chance. Last year, we gave up 20-some goals, which is too much."
Looking at the game as a whole, a 5-0 win is a huge conquest. Louisville St. Xavier, the reigning Kentucky state champs, did lose three Division I commits from last season. But the Tigers' program is quite strong, having won nine Kentucky state titles since 2000.
The 5-0 defeat dealt to St. Xavier is the program's most lopsided defeat in the past decade. The Tigers entered the weekend as the No. 25 team in country, according to Top Drawer Soccer.
"I was happy to be able to go on the road and take a trip to Columbus. Hopefully we'll be doing so again in November," said the Wildcats' veteran coach. "This is a program that's used to winning. I don't know when, if ever, they've lost by this type of score. It was good to battle and play our game."
Looking ahead, the Wildcats return home to Wasmer Field on Wednesday at 7 pm for a rivalry showdown vs. St. Edward. The Eagles carry a 5-1 record, with local wins over Lakewood, Lake Catholic, and Lincoln West and a loss to Revere.
The Wildcats will be working on several aspects of the game over the next week.
"From a tactics standpoint, defensively, we have to battle and make the field small. We can't let teams have chances. That's where our focus is," McLaughlin said. "Offensively, we're working on different patterns and where we can find different spaces on the field. We keep growing in that way."
The JV A Cats return to the pitch vs. St. Edward on Wednesday at 5 pm. The Wildcats have been off since an August 29 win over Solon. The Cats have a 5-0 record.
The JV B Cats also stand undefeated, with a 4-0 mark. The young squad bested Willoughby South, 8-0, and Dublin Jerome, 2-1 last week. The win over the Celtics was particularly impressive, as the Wildcats scored on a PK in the last minute to earn the win. The JV B squad will host St. Edward on Tuesday at 6 pm.
The SIBN will have the call for Wednesday's JV A and varsity matches.
Gianluca DiGiacomo '22 will be on play-by-play for the JV A contest, and on color commentary for varsity. Ryce Federle '20, Connor Barchanowicz '20, and Will Sullivan '20 will all be on the varsity call, too.