By Mr. Eddie Dwyer, Copyright Credit September 2016
Parma, Ohio - Wildcats outstanding Junior Varsity A Coach Jim Brennan '85 got another successful evening in Saint Ignatius Soccer started by continuing his mastery over Parma schools, public or private, as his JV Cats defeated Padua's Jayvees, 9-0.
"Men, I think it was Napoleon who said, 'If you're going to conquer the world, you first have to take Parma,'" said Coach Brennan to his players as he addressed them before the start of Tuesday evening's Junior Varsity matchup.
Coach Brennan, who grew up in Parma and now resides in Strongsville, has an unblemished record against soccer teams from Parma in his 23 seasons as Saint Ignatius' Head JV Coach. Jim has coached in the soccer program at his alma mater for 25 years.
While it didn't take the JV Cats long to conquer the Bruins on what was an absolutely perfect end of summer September evening on the spacious and atmosphere-rich campus of Padua Franciscan High School, Coach Mike McLaughlin's state and nationally acclaimed Varsity team combined another outstanding defensive performance with an offense that produced three goals in each half, and went on to a 6-0 triumph in what was the 41st meeting on the Varsity level between the Wildcats and the Bruins.
Saint Ignatius, which outshot Padua, 47-1, leads what is one of the longest continuous soccer rivalries in Ohio, 31-5-5.
The two-time defending and record seven-time OHSAA state champions, the Varsity Wildcats improved to 7-0-1 and extended their unbeaten streak to 44 matches. Saint Ignatius, a three-time National Champion (2005, '10 and '15), entered Tuesday night's matchup on State Road as the top-ranked Division I team in the state by the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association and the second-ranked program in the nation by USA Today. The' Cats are also ranked third in the Top Drawer Soccer SIMA Fab 50 National Poll.
Ohio's reigning Player of the Year, senior forward/captain Steve Milhoan got the offense started against a gutsy and game Padua team by scoring his 57th and 58th career goals - a long range blast with 30:18 remaining in the first half and a move that saw Steve take an assist from senior forward Alexander Gotsky and beat the goalkeeper with a smooth shot into the right corner of the net.
Saint Ignatius took its 3-0 lead into the halftime break after senior forward Thomas Hogan came up with a second-effort goal on his back, a net-finder that 'Cats veteran Assistant Coach Dan Crew '99 described as a "snake move."
In the second half, Hogan also provided goal No. 4 off an assist from senior forward Adam Collins.
The Wildcats' final two goals came courtesy of sophomore forward Kory Nekoloff off a Hogan assist and sophomore midfielder David Vrablic, who scored his first Varsity goal off an assist from Nekoloff . David is the brother of Saint Ignatius' gifted senior midfielder/captain and Brown University recruit Johne Vrablic.
'Cats senior goalkeepers Lodge Dils and Max Heath each played a half and, despite the score, a tip of the corner's cap goes out to Padua keeper, sophomore Jack Hostelley, who made 15 saves, including four or five all-out diving efforts.
As for the Junior Varsity scoring, David Vrablic and Luke Griffiths fueled the attack to a 2-0 lead, with Kyle Healy providing the assist on Vrablic's goal. Goals 3 and 4 were provided by Henry Curtis off assists from Joe Katic and Kevin McIntyre, and goals 5 through 9 came courtesy of Kyle Folds, Austin Zeleznik, Bryce Horton, Horton again off McIntyre's second assist, and Dan Kalic.
Once again, all three of the JV A 'Cats' goalkeepers, Ryan Mark, Cooper Ilg and Peter Van Euwen, shared playing time.
UP NEXT: The Junior Varsity A Wildcats will take a 7-0 record into Wednesday's 6 PM matchup at Western Reserve Academy.
The Varsity and Junior Varsity A 'Cats will travel to Olentangy Liberty on Saturday to face the Patriots. A 1 PM JV match will precede a 3 PM Varsity encounter. Coach Mike McLaughlin's Wildcats defeated Olentangy Liberty in the 2011 Division I State Championship match, 4-2, and also in the 2014 Division I title match, 2-1.
A DRONE OVER PARMA: Someone must have known that Coach Brennan was back in his home town, as a Drone rotated high over the Padua Stadium scoreboard end zone, the Padua Franciscan main school building and State Road during the Wildcats-Bruins matches. Why not? It was a sunset almost as perfect as a Perla Pierogi.
MARK IT DOWN: Barring a major upset, the Varsity Soccer 'Cats will play their OHSAA District Final match at Padua Stadium this year. I love it that Padua Franciscan is the OHSAA site! This old-timer has some great memories of my coverage of the Bruins during nearly 40 years at The Plain Dealer. I was reliving some those fond moments during both halftimes on Tuesday night. I remember the first football game in the then new Padua Stadium like it was yesterday. It looks even more impressive now. It's getting better looking with age. Something this corner hasn't mastered.
HERE ARE COMMENTS FROM MATTHEW TRICKETT, THOMAS HOGAN AND COACH MCLAUGHLIN ON TUESDAY NIGHT'S MATCHUP WITH THE BRUINS.
Matt Trickett: "Our defense is always pretty compact," said the young man who also doubles as standout place kicker for the Varsity Football Team. "We've been able to communicate a lot with Tommy Patacca now playing right back. We're more comfortable, because we played club together and everything. So we know each other's weaknesses and strengths It's a lot of experience with each other.
"We definitely had a lot of chances (the 47 shots on goal)," Matt continued. "Their keeper (Jack Hostelley) had a phenomenal game, for sure. I think we can improve on how we attack. Instead of the number of chances, get more quality chances."
Thomas Hogan: "I got a good ball to cross, I tried to take it down and I lost my balance," said a smiling Hogan of his on his back shot and goal. "I found myself on the ground and it felt like my foot was stuck to the ground. Somehow I managed to just poke it in. I don't even remember, it happened so fast.
"The national rankings are always in the back of our minds," Thomas continued. "I think we can work on cleaning up our first touch, clean passing and moving forward from the back. Everyone is very motivated to the common goal, which is to win the state championship. Everyone comes out every day at practice and works hard, so really, anything is possible."
Coach McLaughlin: "I think we have four of the best backs in the state," Coach McLaughlin said of Tommy Patacca, Adam Haas, Patrick Strauss and Matt Trickett. "Ultimately, that's what carries you in the playoffs and takes you where you want to go.
"We're defending well and now the next phase is how they transition into the offense," Coach McLaughlin continued. "That's what we've been working really hard on, just playing good balls out of the back and setting ourselves up. In some of the previous games we were rushing too much and just playing too many difficult balls out of the back, and giving the ball up.
"I thought tonight our momentum and just our positioning in playing balls out of the back was a lot better," said the man who is recognized nationally by his peers. "It gives us a much better chance up front."
And a much better chance of becoming the first boys program to win three consecutive OHSAA State Soccer Championships.