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Magis Athletes of the Week: McLaughlin, Longano, Paliga, and Putka Lead the Way

By Joe Ginley '12 , 09/24/19, 4:45PM EDT


Matthew McLaughlin becomes the first soccer player in school history with 40 goals and 40 assists.

This past weekend featured plenty of exciting matchups for the Wildcats. Not every team won, but each program experienced some highlights. 

The Soccer Cats and Golf Cats each had two competitions. The men of Mike McLaughlin tied St. Benedict's Prep (NJ), 2-2, and Columbus St. Charles, 0-0, The Golf Cats won the Bishop Watterson Invite and took third at the Nolan Belden Invitational. 

The Football Cats lost at the varsity level, but the JV and freshmen teams won. The Cross Country Cats experienced success at all levels in a busy weekend.

Without further ado, here are this week's Magis Athletes of the Week, brought to you by the Carfagna Family Magis Athletic Center:

Cross Country – Alex Paliga '22

This week's honoree is a standout from the JV squad. The sophomore earns this spot after his excellent effort at the Strongsville Invitational.

Taking advantage of the team's "Flying Wedge" approach, Paliga took an early lead. Running alongside teammate Aidan Monroe, Paliga galloped to the victory in the JV/Open race with a gold-medal time of 17.27. Monroe deserves praise, too, finishing just .2 seconds behind Paliga. 

The youngster improved on his time last week with the varsity team at Forest Hills, shaving off a second off his time. A hard-worker, Paliga is an impressive young man. 

Paliga will be a racer to watch the rest of the season and beyond. 

Golf – Nick Longano '21

As the regular season draws to a close, Nick Longano is heating up.

As the Wildcats firm up the postseason roster, Longano is doing plenty to earn a spot in the starting six. 

Longano tied with Connor Warns for the medalist honors at the Bishop Watterson Invite on Saturday. Thanks to Longano and Warns, the Wildcats won the tournament in Johnstown on a seasonable Saturday afternoon. 

On Monday, Longano uncorked another great effort. The junior tabbed a 76 at the Nolan Belden Invitational. Longano finished as the low man on the Wildcats at Brookside, an impressive feat with all of the talent on the team. In a field of great golfers at the event – hosted by Canton Central Catholic and the winning team, Archbishop Hoban – Longano etched his name in fifth. 

In a week, the Wildcats will head to Quail Hollow for the Sectional Tournament. Longano will hope to make a big impact for the Wildcats in the postseason. 

Football – Josh Putka '22

The future is bright for the Saint Ignatius football team, and Josh Putka is one of the reasons why.

Putka is a hard worker who embodies what it means to be a Saint Ignatius football player. Whatever your role, you give your all for the team. 

Putka is not the starting running back at the JV level. He's a scout team player, helping the Saint Ignatius defense prepare for the next opponent. At the end of varsity practice, Putka rehearses the Saint Ignatius offense for about 20-30 minutes with the rest of the JV squad. 

Against Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Putka was charged with carrying the ball and eating up clock in a 41-0 victory. Putka did just that, and more.

The 5’4, 140-pound running back gained yards in bunches and found the end zone twice in the win over VASJ. Putka made his teammates and coaches proud, particularly starting varsity back James Crosby, who helped to coach the JV backs on Monday. Running backs coach Terry Fergus '71 spoke highly of Putka and his effort on Monday. The on-field results are a product of Putka's hard work during and after practice every day. As Fergus said, Putka embodies what it means to be an Ignatian and Man for Others.

Soccer – Matthew McLaughlin '20 

Against one of the top high school soccer teams in the country, Matthew McLaughlin made history.

McLaughlin became the first player in Saint Ignatius soccer history to score 40 goals and 40 assists in his career. 

As any local fan of high school soccer knows, plenty of talented soccer players have walked the halls of Wildcat High. Professional players, Gatorade National Players of the Year, countless Division I stars have honed their craft with the Soccer Cats. With Saturday's performance, McLaughlin can count himself amongst the greats.

The fourth-year varsity player shines when the spotlight is brightest. The senior played a major role in both goals on Friday. McLaughlin stole the ball away from a talented Gray Bee in the backline in the first half before sliding it over to Everett Shorey for the opening goal. 

The Broadview Heights native didn't stop there. McLaughlin roofed a ball from the edge of the goal box later in the half, a magnificent shot against a St. Benedict's defense that left him open. Teams leave McLaughlin open space at their own risk.

After Friday's tie, McLaughlin has 45 goals and 40 assists in his four-year career. He's the first 40/40 player with over 40 goals and assists in his career. 

Mark Blades will be watching McLaughlin closely tonight and moving forward. McLaughlin is on the brink of breaking Blades' career assists mark. Blades recorded 41 assists from 2003-05 in a remarkable career. 

McLaughlin and the Wildcats return to action on Tuesday evening at University School, looking to preserve a spotless 8-0-2 record.