Friars claim an impressive 2-0 victory in the rain

by Gary Adornato

Top-ranked Archbishop Curley played its first ever soccer match on the school’s artificial turf field, Tuesday. It was a marque match-up with No. 2 Mount St. Joseph, and the Friars made the memory lasting by claiming a 2-0 MIAA A Conference victory.

The synthetic surface was most welcome as it rained throughout the contest and the precipitation was especially heavy in the first half. Despite the conditions, Curley (3-0, 1-0 MIAA A) applied offensive pressure early and often in the first half. In the second minute senior forward Tommy Sidleck put the first shot on goal, which was poked wide by St. Joe keeper Ashton Carey.

Three minutes later, Curley senior defender Nick Richardson hit a direct kick, from 40 yards, into the box and it popped dangerously high into the air, before Carey elevated to secure it.

St. Joe’s best opportunity of the first half came in the seventh minute when senior Ian Regar came free up top, 20 yards from the goal, but fired wide right. Richardson countered right back for the Friars, hitting another long ball into the box that required another leaping save by Carey, who had five stops in the first half and seven for the game.

Curley kept the heat on the St. Joe defense, as Sidleck created two excellent opportunities in the 25th minute, the second one requiring a one-on-one two-handed block by Carey.

A Curley goal was beginning to feel inevitable and, with 11:34 remaining in the first half, it finally came. Richardson volleyed a beautiful ball toward the left post where midfielder Bryce Woodward had settled into some open space and headed a shot inside the post for the first goal of the game.

“I thought we came out really strong. We held the ball very well,” said Richardson, the 2016 VSN Defensive Player of the Year. “We showed a lot of class by taking that early lead and we set the tone to show how we are going to play this year.”

The Gaels (1-1, 1-1 MIAA A) evened the play out considerably in the second half and nearly tied the contest, three minutes after intermission, when senior Jordan Ehart volleyed a pass which senior Jame Mazzei headed wide right. The Gaels very best opportunity of the day, however, came with a little less than five minutes to play as they were awarded an in-direct free kick in the box.

Mazzei approached the ball and delayed his strike a beat, drawing the defense out slightly, but his blast soared high over the goal.

“I thought in the first half, for the first 10 minutes, we played well, then we kind of lost our legs a bit,” said St. Joe coach Mike St. Martin. “We were just banging the ball forward and not keeping the ball. That lent us to go back and forth and back and forth, rather than keeping the ball, so we made some adjustments at halftime. I thought the second half was better, but we didn’t get the result.”

Curley scored its second goal, and virtually iced the victory, with 3:19 to play. Junior midfielder Thunlwyn Garcia made a long and determined run up the left side, beat a Gael defender and centered a pass to senior teammate Ben Stitz. Stitz gathered the pass, stepped back to create space, as he put the ball on his left foot, and stoked a low, hard shot inside the left post.

Curley coach Barry Stitz felt his team played very well, especially on the defensive end.

“We had a really good first half, but in the second half we didn’t get in the flow,” said Stitz. “The ball was kind of bouncing around, but I was proud, we didn’t give up a whole lot of chances. Even when we weren’t sharp in the second half, we didn’t give up a lot of chances. Our shape was good and we got the goal at the end to put the game away.

“We have a lot of guys who have played together for a while and we play a certain style of soccer. When we play that style, the ball moves and we create chances, and we’re a tough team to play against.”

Both coaches acknowledged that this was just one step in a long journey that could wind up with the two of them battling again at the end of the year.

“We want to be there in the end, so we have to move on and look to Friday,” said St. Martin. “We have to reground from this. I thought we played really well in the second half, we just didn’t get the one we needed to put away for the equalizer.”

As far as Richardson is concerned, the Friars have their eyes focused on a return to the final, after losses in the last two championship games.

“I especially want to get back and get another shot at the big crown, but also have a great regular season,” said Richardson. “We’re looking to go undefeated, don’t want to lose a game, but just to get back to that game is the main goal. I think we are the top dog right now and we’re looking forward to going against the top teams.”

Pictured above: Archbishop Curley’s Thunlwyn Garcia (left), who assisted on the Frairs’ second goal, battles for position with Mount St. Joe’s Jordan Dmitri.

MSJ  0  0  —  0
AC     1   1  —   2
AC- Bryce woodward, Ben Stitz.
ASSISTS: AC-Nick Richardson, Thunlwyn Garcia.
SAVES: MSJ-Ashton Carey 7; AC-Nathan Wdzieczkowski 3.