Rugel scores twice as the Patriots blank St. Paul’s in blistering heat and humidity
by Gary Adornato
Blistering heat and humidity, amplified by John Carroll’s synthetic turf field, ensured it would be a “hot” start for the host Patriots and St. Paul’s, as the pair opened the 2021 MIAA A Conference soccer season, Tuesday, in Bel Air.
A pair of early goals by JC sophomore Christian Rugel, however, paved the way for a 3-0 victory by the Patriots, ensuring they would recover a little easier from the conditions than the Crusaders.
John Carroll dominated possession throughout and created plenty of chances in the early going. In the 14th minute, Rugel found himself loose on a 2-on-1 counter attack, along with senior Lane Moran, but he pushed his low shot wide right and the game remained scoreless. Seconds later, however, Rugel got free on the right side of the box and beat St. Paul’s goalkeeper Grayson Benson inside the near post for the first goal of the season.
Nearly three minutes later Rugel scored again, from in front, and the Patriots were in command.
“Today, first goals, early chances converted into goals were going dictate how the course of the game went,” said John Carroll coach Jimmy Fendryk. “Our team talk reflected that exact thing, if we could put them on the back foot first and get ourselves an early goal, and then keep our foot on the gas, it becomes really hard to continue to fight out of that hole in these conditions. It was brutal out here today.”
Rugel agreed with his coach about the importance of a quick start.
“Scoring early is always good because it always lets the team go downhill from there,” said Rugel. “It just keeps bringing more energy for us. Our momentum goes up and there momentum goes down.”
The Patriots continued to apply pressure and created seven corner kick opportunities to just two for St. Paul’s and it was on one of those opportunities where the Patriots found their third goal.
Sophomore Ellis Connor served the corner, in the sixth minute of the second half, and defender Eric Schultz won the ball in the air, inside the box. Schultz volleyed it forward to Andrew Denard, yet another John Carroll sophomore, and he headed it into the upper 90 on the right side of the goal.
St. Paul’s, playing its first game under new head coach PK Fisher, worked hard throughout, but the Crusaders struggled to build anything in the offensive end of the field. Benson, who stopped nine shots, kept the Crusaders in it most of the way, but their first, and only, shot on goal did not come until the 78th minute, when senior David Randrianavelo made a nifty spin move just outside the box and found himself one-on-one with Patriot goalkeeper Tyler Mezzadra.
Mezzadra came out aggressively and made a sliding block of Randrianavelo’s shot attempt. The ball caromed to the right where sophomore Jojo Washington hit one-timer at an open net, but the ball sailed high over the goal.
With a young team, facing a grueling 20-game regular season in the MIAA A Conference, Fendryk expects his team to compete this fall.
“We have a lot of heart,” said the Patriots coach. “We’re young in some spots. We started six sophomores today. Where we lack with the age experience, we make up with some playing experience. A lot of those guys on the field today have great futures head of them. Together, as they build through this conference they can do something pretty special.”
Fisher agreed that the conditions were difficult, especially after his squad fell behind.
“We started slow and fell behind. We can’t do that,” said Fisher. “The second half was a little more even. What I liked from our guys is just the fight. We’re trying to build something positive here at St. Paul’s, so we’re starting.”
Fisher believes he has team that can improve as the season progresses.
“We have some great seniors who have been in the program for four years, two promising young freshman and we have a transfer student, (junior) Caden (Major), who played up top for us. Today, I don’t think they showed everything they are capable of, soccer wise, but the effort was better in the second half. So, we’re going to need guys to show up a little sooner.”
Pictured above: John Carroll sophomore Christopher Supan dribbles past a St. Paul’s defender in the Patriots, 3-0, season-opening win.
JOHN CARROLL 3, ST. PAUL’S 0
SP 0 0 — 0
JV 2 1 — 3
GOALS: JC-Christian Rugel 2, Andrew Denard.
ASSISTS: JC-Ryan Skandalis, Eric Schultz.
SAVES: SP- Grayson Benson 9; JC-Tyler Mezzarda 1.