By Michael Tinley ‘18
The Brother Rice varsity soccer program traveled to Wilmette, Illinois, on September 21 to take on the Ramblers of Loyola. With the turf registering at 110 degrees at kick-off, Loyola owning a high-powered offense, and the Ramblers being a fierce competitor for the CCL title, the team knew they had a tough game on their hands.
A consistent defensive focus was called upon in order to keep the Loyola attackers at bay. Clogging up the midfield with five Crusaders made it difficult for space to be found when Loyola attempted to penetrate their attacking third. The five midfielders also allowed for Brother Rice to jump on the counter-attack and create multiple goal-scoring opportunities throughout the game.
“Our defensive effort and shape this game was the best we’ve had all season,” commented Varsity Head Coach Kevin McAlinden, “especially in the first half.” The squad was able to enter halftime with a 0-0 scoreline thanks to the perfect execution of the drawn up gameplan as well as a lightning quick reaction save from Crusader goalie Neil Sloyan.
Unfortunately, fifteen minutes into the second half Loyola was able to get on the board. A pass across the face of goal was tapped in by a trailing Loyola attacker. That defensive lapse by the Crusaders stood alone as the team consistently looked to pounce on the counter-attack with Jack Finnegan finding opportunities to test Loyola’s goal-minder.
With a minute left in the match and the Ramblers still up one, the Crusaders gave it all they had, marching up the field one last time. Finnegan found the ball on the right flank, shimmied away two Loyola defenders, and fired in a dangerous cross where senior midfielder Joe Kresic was zeroing on the ball as it sailed in front of the goal. Everyone held their breath as Kresic was able to get a head on the ball; however, the touch wasn’t enough as it glanced just outside the right post. Time expired thirty seconds later.
It was a disappointing result for the Crusaders, but there were many positives to be found. “The scoreline didn’t reflect the performance we put in,” McAlinden told his team. Now, with state playoffs nearing, harvesting that defensive focus and grit that the Crusaders seem to have is crucial.