Rivalry Week began with a big win on Wednesday.
The Saint Ignatius varsity soccer team earned a 4-1 victory over St. Edward on Wednesday night on Wasmer Field in the District Semifinal.
The Eagles adjusted well after a 7-0 loss to the Wildcats in September, playing effective defense, particularly early on. But the Soccer Cats figured things out and rolled to a 4-1 win.
"Our goal during the playoffs is this – whatever people throw at us, let's figure it out. Things aren't going to be easy for us," said Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin '85. "Then, everything has to be done as a team. We can't let moments of games break us down. As we stay together and stay positive, we're going to figure things out."
The Wildcats started the contest strong. Junior Kyle Folds tallied a beautiful goal in the first minute to place the Wildcats ahead 1-0.
The score was exactly what Coach McLaughlin wanted to see. However, the next bit of action was not what McLaughlin or the Cats wanted.
The Eagles managed to tie the contest about five minutes later, giving the visitors plenty of momentum.
"We're trying to start strong, and we did. We scored a goal in the first minute of the game. Then, all credit to them, they had a much different plan tonight than when we saw them a month ago, which is what you would expect," said McLaughlin. "This is the playoffs, and this is St. Ed's. They were dangerous going forward. To their credit, they responded and scored a goal. Because there's so much emotion involved in this game, because they scored, the momentum shifted. All of the sudden, it creates a little bit of panic in us, and we're still trying to find the game."
Indeed, the Wildcats tried to find their footing over the course of the first half, facing a ferocious St. Edward defense with a much different style from the previous matchup.
The Wildcats knocked on the door for much of the first, with a number of corner kicks and plenty of promising opportunities, including one shot that caromed off the post at the 15-minute mark.
Finally with 7:56 left in the first, the Wildcats broke through. On a corner kick, Matthew McLaughlin lofted a ball into the box. The ball hit off a couple heads before finding the foot of Kory Nekoloff. The senior fired it towards the net, but it found the body of an Eagle. The shot caused the St. Edward keeper to fall to the earth, leaving open net space for a wonderful rebound goal by Everett Shorey.
"It took 20 minutes, and I was grateful we scored before the half, of course. They had a plan to man-mark everybody and not let us do what we want to do," McLaughlin said. "It's great to have Everett back. Everett can change a game. He's been hurt all season, but I feel like he's back on track. To get him out there moving, he's dangerous around the goal. He leads the game really well."
The score remained 1-1 heading into halftime.
Just four minutes into the second half, the Wildcats added an insurance marker.
From the wing near the Saint Ignatius student section, Shorey tabbed a ball into the box. Nekoloff met the ball with his head on a marvelous play, sending the score to 3-1 Wildcats.
The final goal of the evening came with 12 minutes left to play. Folds brought the ball to the ball into the zone and fired a perfect shot low left side to beat the diving St. Edward keeper.
"It was a great performance by Folds," McLaughlin said. "Those were excellent goals. We needed breathing room, and he gave us breathing room."
In the final 12 minutes, the Wildcats held off the Eagles, preventing any hopes of a comeback.
As Coach McLaughlin said after the game, no team will roll over this season in the playoffs – the road to title No. 9 will be a challenging one.
"First of all, their mentality – nothing is going to be easy. Coming into this game, they said they weren't taking it easy, but this is the playoffs," McLaughlin said. "Nothing will be easy. We need to keep grinding and fighting and finding the game."
The journey to a state championship continues on Saturday. The Soccer Cats will face North Royalton in the District Final at 7 p.m. on Byers Field. Only the Day Drive entrance will be open to fans.
As per usual, the SIBN will broadcast the game live, audio-only, per OHSAA rules.