On Saturday, all three Saint Ignatius WildcatS soccer squads lined up on the field to face off against Olentangy Liberty, a school from Columbus with a very solid soccer program all around. But not only was this important because this was the last game of the regular season, but there was a deeper meaning behind it.
If all three Wildcat teams won or tied these next three games, this would be the first time in the soccer program’s history that all three teams would finish undefeated.
First up was the Wildcats’ JV B team, as they kicked off at 11 am on a chilly Saturday morning at Wasmer Field. After a hard fought game, the JV B team had finished with a destructive 5-0 victory, finishing the season in stunning fashion. The Wildcats ended the season on a remarkable +69 goal differential, only allowing 2 goals all season.
The JV A team took the field next with only more pressure added to their circumstances. They tied the game 1-1, with an unfortunate own goal in the opening minutes, and a record-saving goal from freshman Nolan Spicer.
After this, it was all up to the varsity.
The Varsity Cats lined up as they do normally – 11 high-profile seniors took the field against the Patriots at 3 pm. The referee blew his whistle, and the game was underway.
The atmosphere, even with the Saint Ignatius vs. St. Edward football game in just a few hours, was still very great. Plenty of parents attended, as did loud student sections for both sides.
The first 20 minutes or so was played majority in the midfield, with seemingly Olentangy sort of outplaying the Wildcats. As the game progressed, the Wildcats had more urgency on offense compared to early on.
Both sides had their attacking chances. But all were denied by either the goalkeeper, or the posts, the goalie’s best friend.
As halftime came, the game was still scoreless. With this scoreline, the Wildcats would still remain undefeated; but the Wildcats wanted more than that, and they wanted their season to end on a higher level.
The beginning of the second half was mostly the Wildcats in control of the game, bringing high-intensity pressure and plenty more attacking chances when compared to the first half.
With just 27 minutes remaining in the regular season, defender Ryan Notarianni played in a cross. It soared over the middle and went far post. Matthew McLaughlin made an incredible run and managed to meet the ball before it could bounce out of bounds. McLaughlin played a ball into a large gap in the middle near the penalty spot, and Luciano Pechota made a heroic run and tapped it in with no defensive opposition.
The Wildcats now led the game 1-0.
The closing minutes of the season were still hard-fought. The Wildcats did not take their feet off the gas pedal, they knew that they simply could not afford to. The Wildcats defense kept up their excellent play, as Danny Kalic and Nolan Bartolone held the back as Ryan Notarianni and Theo Kudlo could have chances to help the attack. Olentangy Liberty played an increasingly physical game.
The Wildcats continued to defend well and create more chances with good passing until the final whistle blew. The record was broken, and the Wildcats had made history not only in the school, but quite frankly, for high school soccer in the United States in general.
During the postgame talk, Coach Mike McLaughlin brought up the phrase, “I am that man,” which is a phrase that the team has used frequently throughout the season.
After the game, I asked Coach Mike the meaning behind the phrase.
“It comes from the Navy Seal Creed, which you should go read,” he said. “It basically comes down to ‘what kind of man are you…who are you going to be?’ Are you going to have your teammates’ backs? Are you going to battle your hardest? Just put everything you have on the line for your brothers.”
Coach McLaughlin says that the team has the proper mentality going into the playoffs, and they are ready for whoever they may face in the coming weeks.
This game has concluded the regular season, and the Cats will play in the first round of the playoffs on October 19 at Wasmer field against the winner of the game between Parma Valley Forge and Cleveland Rhodes.