There have been many twists during the 2016 MIAA A Conference soccer season, but the final chapter will be exactly what many expected it to be when the year got underway, as No. 1 Archbishop Curley and No. 3 Calvert Hall each won semifinal playoff games, Thursday to advance to Sunday’s final at Anne Arundel Community College.
The Friars and Cardinals, who split their regular season meetings, will play for the league championship at 5:30 p.m. on the AACC turf.
At Curley, the Friars (19-3-2) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on No. 4 McDonogh (15-7) and went on to finish off the Eagles 3-1, in a rematch of last year’s championship game. Junior Ben Stitz led the way with a goal and two assists.
Senior Matt Brummet, with an assist from Stitz, put the Friars on the board with a goal with 25 minutes to play in the opening half. Stitz made it 2-0 for the Friars when he drilled a shot off the post and into the net, in the 25th minute, with senior Alejandro Arbalaez assisting.
McDonogh got one back, with eight minutes left in the opening half, and it remained a one goal game until the clock ticked down to 5 minutes to play in the second half. That’s when Curley’s Arbalaez, again with Stitz assisting, iced the victory and Curley’s second consecutive trip to the MIAA A final with a goal.
“We played really well today,” said Curley coach Barry Stitz. “We are at a good place right now with the way we have been playing the last 2-3 weeks. We get a little better each game and if we keep playing like this, I like our chances.”
In Irvington, Calvert Hall (15-4-2) avenged two regular season losses to the Gaels (14-3-2) with a strong defensive effort. Senior Chris Carroll scored the only goal of the contest, with 16 mins left, on a strike from 25 yards out. Ben Alexander provided the assist and the Cardinals made it stand up. Cardinal keeper Kyle Cooper made a couple of sensational diving stops to help preserve the shutout.
“It was a very good game today between two good teams,” said Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand. “We both created some chances and their keeper played very well. It came down to a spectacular goal from Chris Carroll, from Ben Alexander on a give and go.”
St. Joe, blessed with a very talented junior class, led the league for a large chunk of the regular season and held the No. 1 ranking for several weeks. Despite the difficult ending to their season, the Gaels should enter 2017 as title contender once again.
On Sunday, Curley will be seeking its fourth MIAA A championship and its first since 2006. Calvert Hall has won four league championships, but none since 2003.
“They are a very good team,” Stitz said of Calvert Hall. “They have some of the best players in the league. We know its going to be a tight game and it’s going to come down to which team makes the plays.”
Zinkand had similar thoughts on the final.
“It’s going to be an exciting final,” said Zinkand. “Two good teams with great soccer traditions. It should be fun.”