Following a tough loss on Friday, the Saint Ignatius varsity soccer team strapped up its shoes and went to work on Saturday.
The Saint Ignatius varsity soccer team earned a 3-1 victory over Chaminade at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Nassau County, New York on Saturday evening to round out a roadtrip to New Jersey and New York.
Following a night of sightseeing on Saturday, the Wildcats returned home on Sunday evening with a 10-1-2 record and a sense of confidence entering the final stretch of the season.
Saturday's contest marked a critical point in the season for the Wildcats. The squad suffered a 3-1 defeat to St. Benedict's Prep on Friday, surrendering 3 first-half goals before fighting for a goal in the second half. Chaminade confronted the Wildcats in a test of the Clevelanders' confidence and conditioning. The Soccer Cats emerged with a victory that sends the team into the final leg of the season with renewed faith and energy.
The game vs. Chaminade began on an interesting note – with fireworks, both figurative and literal.
"It was a peculiar beginning to the game. The moment we kicked off, there were fireworks," explained Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin '85. "The fireworks lasted for 7 or 8 minutes. We actually thought that maybe the fireworks were put on by Chaminade as a welcome. Literally, they came from behind the scoreboard. I looked over at the coach and said, 'Hey, thanks!' He had no idea. It went on and on, and we couldn't even hear each other. They scored during the fireworks. It was another set-piece goal we couldn't contain – they had a big kid who was good in the air. But we settled in and we played great."
Following the goal, the Wildcats began to control play.
The men of Ohio City dictated the tempo and the pace of the game, firing shots at the Chaminade net. Several shots went wide, but it did not rattle the Cats.
"There was a real confidence we gained from Friday night's game against St. Benedict's. We feel that if we can hold our own against a team like St. Benedict's, we're capable of playing anyone in the country," McLaughlin said. "That was the purpose of going on the trip – to gain confidence in our ability as a group. We got that from St. Benedict's and it carried into Saturday 100%. We were dominant on the ball, we were really good defensively. We controlled the tempo and pace on Saturday night. We created chances but didn't capitalize in the first half. In the second half, we kept working and it was great."
Entering the break trailing 1-0, the Wildcats steeled themselves at halftime. Redoubling their efforts at the start of the second, the Wildcats started earning the breaks.
The first goal came on a beauty. Matthew McLaughlin crossed it from the far-side to the center, to a waiting Ryan Roberts. The junior met the ball with his head and sent it to the back of the net.
"It was a near-post header, which looks easy, but it's not an easy thing to do," said Coach McLaughlin.
The first goal opened the floodgates for the Saint Ignatius attack.
Following a Chaminade chance, goalkeeper Peter Van Euwen threw the ball with all of his might to Bryce Horton as the senior charged forward. Horton scurried down the field before crossing it to Joey Katic, who finished the job.
"Peter just whipped it. You can tell Peter is a baseball player," McLaughlin said. "He whipped it to midfield and it caught Bryce in full stride, and he took it down and crossed it with his left foot. It was great."
The third goal of the game came immediately after the second. Kyle Healy took advantage of the reeling opponents, finding twine for the umpteenth time this season for the Wildcats.
"They were good team goals," McLaughlin said. "You take any goal, but team goals are the beauties."
In the second half, McLaughlin spread around playing time, as everyone enjoyed significant playing time. All in all, the game was nearly perfect.
"Everybody was able to play and got good minutes, all 19 players who were eligible to play," McLaughlin said. "It was a wonderful end to a great trip."
Following the long trip, the Wildcats have time to rest and recuperate. The Soccer Cats, mostly healthy, have just three games left – a Senior Day contest vs. Toledo St. Francis next Saturday, a road game vs. Padua on October 9, and the season finale vs. Olentangy Liberty on October 13.
McLaughlin believes his men are ready for the home stretch of the season, and then the playoffs.
"If people ask, 'What are the things that have contributed to our state championships over the years?' I would say one of the most important parts of our season is these out of state trips," McLaughlin said. "We will not see a team this season as good as St. Benedict's. There's a real confidence that comes from playing against St. Benedict's and Chaminade. It gives us an edge as we go forward playing against some of the top teams in Ohio."
Seeing all the Sights: The Wildcats took in many of New York's top attractions on Saturday. The Wildcats took a ferry across the Hudson River and went to the top of One World Trade Center before Saturday's game.
Following Saturday's contest, the Wildcats took a trip to Times Square. The team thoroughly enjoyed the journey to the "Crossroads of the World," taking the Subway to and from the Square.
The Wildcats encountered Saint Ignatius alumni throughout the trip, who proved invaluable hosts and guides to the team. A special shoutout goes to two alumni, in particular – Pat Shields '81 and Dan Jones '83. Thank you to Shields, Jones, and all of the other Wildcat alumni who supported the Soccer Cats in NYC!
"The experience of the time spent together and the sightseeing, the boys will remember it forever," McLaughlin said. "Those are the intangible things that help when we have tough moments going forward in the season. There's a brotherhood that's formed on a trip like this, which will help carry you through. It's also a brotherhood that will be with these guys for the rest of their lives."