On Friday, the Saint Ignatius varsity soccer team will play perhaps the largest game (outside of a state championship) in program history.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in the country, will play the No. 1 ranked team in the country, St. Benedict's Prep.
The contest marks one match of a two-game swing in New York and New Jersey. The Wildcats will face No. 1 St. Benedict's on Friday at 8:15 p.m. at Pittser Field at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Saint Ignatius will then play Chaminade at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Nassau County, New York on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The men of Mike McLaughlin '85 have taken many long trips in recent years, including to Denver, Colorado in October 2016 and to Jamaica in July 2018. But this contest may be the most challenging.
Both USA TODAY and Top Drawer Soccer have ranked St. Benedict's as the top high school team in the United States. The Gray Bees have won 11 national titles in program history. Saint Ignatius and St. Benedict's have won seven of the last FAB 50 fall national titles, as ranked by Top Drawer Soccer.
The 9-0-2 Wildcats enter as the No. 2 team in the country according to USA TODAY and No. 5 by Top Drawer.
So, what are the keys for the Wildcats in the first ever matchup between these two national powerhouses?
"First, mentally realizing that we can play with a team like this. Secondly, taking it to them," McLaughlin said. "This is a rare occurrence because they are the top team in the country, not us. When we play, we have the bullseye on our back. On Friday, they will have the bullseye on their back. There's actually a little bit of freedom going into this game. Let's go out there and see what we can do, see how we can play. I'm excited to see how we measure up. They're loaded and really deep. I hear they sub eight kids a time, and there's no drop-off."
The Wildcats previously traveled to NYC in 2015. The team played Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Manhattan, when the Wildcats earned a 5-0 win. King, under the direction of famous coach Martin Jacobson, have won 16 New York City Championships and are regularly ranked in the top 25 nationally. The Wildcats also played St. Anthony High School, earning a 4-1 win.
The highly anticipated match will be broadcasted on the SIBN. Fans can tune in live at ignatiuswildcats.com/sibn-live for the call.
Alumni in the New York City area will be welcomed with open arms at both of the games – the Wildcats would love your support. Coach McLaughlin and the Wildcats will take a postgame picture with all alumni in attendance.