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Soccer Cats Maneuvering Through Adversity

By Jack Brennan '24, 10/13/22, 2:45PM EDT


Despite a pair of losses on the season, the Wildcats have bounced back, preparing them for a State Title run.

Saint Ignatius @ St. Benedict's Prep

MONTCLAIR, Nj - On October 1, the Soccer Cats took on the St. Benedict's Prep Gray Bees at Montclair State University Soccer Park, a few miles off the Hudson River in New Jersey. The Wildcats entered the contest 10-0-0 and ranked number one nationally by the United Soccer Coaches committee. The Gray Bees entered 7-0 and were ranked number two nationally. This would mark the third meeting between the two sides, with the all-time record being one loss and one tie for the Wildcats.

As the game kicked off, neither side immediately gained an edge possession-wise. The match would remain deadlocked, with each side making slight tactical changes as the game progressed.

St. Benedict would break the deadlock when a corner would connect with the head of forwarding Yuvraj Nagra. The slippery ball would sneak through the hands of Patrick McLaughlin for a Gray Bees goal. 

St. Benedict would initially show some momentum coming off the goal; however, in a matter of minutes, the Wildcats would manage to quell it. The game would continue reasonably even, with neither side gaining any significant advantage. The Gray Bees were quite aggressive, using their natural size sloppily and drawing many foul calls. However, despite St. Benedict’s errors, the Cats couldn’t capitalize off the set pieces.

One final promising chance would come for the Wildcats before the end of the first half. A long throw-in from Owen Sullivan would find itself at the feet of Zsombor Onodi. Onodi would take a touch and shoot, but the fine strike would be met with an equally fine save by the St. Benedict goalkeeper Marcilio Soares kept the game in the Gray Bees’ favor.

1-0 Gray Bees was the halftime score. The Wildcats found themselves down at halftime in what seemed like ages for the first time. Coach McLaughlin spoke about how both teams were playing tremendous soccer, that they would need to keep up the intensity and that they would find success in doing so.

As the rain continued pouring down, the game progressed into the second half, similarly to how it did the first half. Neither team was able to gain a whole lot of control, and the game remained just as chippy as in the first half. 

The Cats would continue to get opportunities on goal. However, continued stellar performance from Soares would stop the chances in their tracks. And as the weather worsened, those chances would become few and far between. 

The Gray Bees would find another successful attack with around ten minutes remaining in the match. A Gray Bee’s shot would be blocked. However, the rebound would find itself right at the feet of Kwaku Agyabeng. The 18-year-old junior would strike the ball just past the keeper and give the Gray Bees a 2-0 lead.

This final goal was the nail in the coffin for the Wildcats. And despite several stoppages and a yellow card for excessive amounts of time wasted by St. Benedict’s, the Wildcats would ultimately fall 2-0. This loss was their first since the 2018 state semifinals and would break their winning streak of 67 games and their unbeaten streak of 77 games. The Wildcats would fall to 10-1-0 on the season but sought to avenge their loss the following day against Chaminade (NY).

Saint Ignatius @ Chaminade

UNIONDALE, NY - The Soccer Cats took on the Chaminade Flyers (NY) on October 2 at Nassau County Sports Complex in Long Island, New York. The Wildcats entered the match 10-1-1, suffering their first defeat of the season the day prior. The Wildcats were undoubtedly motivated by their heartbreaking loss, which showed clearly throughout the game. 

The Cats came out in their standard 4-3-3 formation, with Carter Snyder starting at the right-wing position, a change from the previous day’s game. The Wildcats would be forced to make strategic adjustments, as the New York soccer rules place halves at 45 minutes long instead of the 40 minutes they’re set at in Ohio. 

Motivated by their devastating loss the day prior, the Saint Ignatius side would come out fast. The first goal, a rebound tap-in, would be scored by Snyder only two minutes into the match.

The Wildcats dominated the time of possession and the penalty box especially. Seventeen minutes in, Owen Maruca would score the Wildcats’ second goal on a rebound.

Twelve minutes later, the Saint Ignatius side would score yet another goal. Ashton Daher played a ball to the feet of Nolan Spicer, who chipped the ball over the outstretched arms of the Chaminade goalkeeper. The score was 3-0, only 29 minutes into the contest.

However, Chaminade would refuse to go down without a fight, as they would string together a goal at the 68th-minute mark. The goal was scored by a player who seemed to be in an offside position, as was the opinion of the assistant referee; the referee has usually given the role of deciding offsides. However, the head referee disagreed and overruled his call. The goal stood.

Another goal by Nolan Spicer with five minutes to go would be the final nail in the coffin, and the game would end with a final score of 4-1 in favor of the Wildcats. The resilient style of play following their loss carried them to a solid victory. Next up was a meeting with Western Reserve Academy on Wednesday, their third game in five days.

Western Reserve Academy vs. Saint Ignatius

OHIO CITY, Oh - On October 5, the Soccer Wildcats took on the Western Reserve Pioneers at Wasmer Field. Western Reserve would enter ranked fifth in the region by the US Soccer Coaches committee, holding a 9-0-3 record. The Cats, coming from a road trip to New York and New Jersey, entered first in the region and second nationally with an 11-1-1 record. 

The Wildcats would get off to a sluggish start, perhaps because this was their third game in five days. They struggled to keep possession of the ball, something quite uncharacteristic for the squad, giving WRA more chances than the team would have liked to have afforded them. One such opportunity came inches from being a goal for the opposition. After the Cats gave the ball away, WRA’s Hamza Cromah would receive the ball around five yards outside the penalty box, take a touch and have a shot on goal just outside the box. The low-driven ball would be met by the gloves of Wildcat goalkeeper Patrick McLaughlin and proceed to be cleared by the Wildcat defenders. 

The Pioneers would continue to apply the pressure, as mere minutes after the first WRA opportunity, they would find yet another. It would be number 14 yet again, who would receive a cross on the right side of the box; feeling the pressure, he would fire a desperation shot at McLaughlin from a poor angle. The shot would be blocked with ease. However, the rebound found itself right back at the feet of Kromah by the six-yard box. He was in prime position for a goal, but McLaughlin came diving in as he prepared to take a shot, snatching the ball from his feet. Another near goal for the Pioneers.

The score remained deadlocked at 0 going into halftime. Both sides spoke about tactical adjustments they would each make to gain an edge. Coach McLaughlin talked about cleaning things up defensively and not underestimating their opponents. 

Western Reserve came out of the half swinging, ramping up the pressure, a strategy they would see immediate success. They would have a set piece less than two minutes into the half. Western Reserve’s Pedro Lyra Vieira would be the one to take the kick. He would serve the ball into the penalty box to junior Ty Mikula, who would take a touch and score.

The Wildcats, woken up by the goal, would fight to equalize, but the relentless Pioneer back line would prevent any great opportunities. 

Then, with 8 minutes to go, sophomore Marty McLaughlin would receive the ball at the corner of the six-yard box. Seeing the keeper approaching to snag the ball from him, he passed it off to Nolan Spicer, standing in front of an empty net. The ever-consistent Spicer would tap the ball and equalize that game at one.

Not satisfied with a draw, the Cats refused to take their foot off the gas pedal. No more than two minutes later, Spicer would lay off a ball to Zsombor Onodi for a give-and-go. He received the ball back and took a quick touch past the keeper, the ball dribbling into the back of the net as he tumbled to the turf. The Wildcats had come back from a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead in a matter of minutes.

Not long after the kickoff, a Western Reserve player would receive a red card out of frustration. Playing 11 v. 10, Owen Sullivan would score a third and final goal to put the game away.

The Cats won by a score of 3-1, a remarkable comeback victory. The Saint Ignatius side never hung their heads and continued playing, and despite losing key players to injuries, maintained a “next man up” mentality. As coach McLaughlin put it, “The brotherhood grew tonight.” The Wildcats advanced to 12-1-0 and played nationally ranked Calvert Hall on Saturday from Wasmer Field. 

The Wildcats would fall to Calvert Hall 4-2 and rebound against the St. Edward Eagles with a 4-0 win. The Wildcats find themselves with a 13-2-0 record as they head into the final game of the regular season against Dublin Jerome on Saturday, October 15.