Top-ranked and undefeated Archbishop Curley defeats No. 10 Calvert Hall, 5-1, to regain the Rief Cup

Chris Rief (center), son of Bernie Rief, with Curley coach Barry Stitz (left) and Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand, poses with the Rief Cup during a post-game reception for the soccer alumni of both schools.

by Gary Adornato

On a post-card perfect fall afternoon in East Baltimore, top-ranked Archbishop Curley and No. 10 Calvert Hall waged their annual battle for the Rief Cup, a trophy named in honor of Bernie Rief, Curley’s first coach who guided the Friars to their first soccer championship in 1968 and the father of Chris Rief, one of Calvert Hall’s all-time soccer greats.

The host Friars had the better of play throughout, but led just 2-1 with a little more than 14 minutes to play, when an own goal broke the Cardinals’ spirit and opened the flood gates that led to a 5-1 Curley rout. The unbeaten Friars (11-0 overall, 8-0 MIAA A), currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, regained the Rief Cup for the next year as they took an 8-7-1 lead in the series which was initiated in 2002.

Moments before the pivotal score, Calvert Hall’s Ben Bender nearly netted an equalizer for the Cardinals (6-4, 4-4) when he attacked from the left side of the box as Curley goalkeeper Nate Wdzieczkowski came out to challenge. Bender unleashed a hard shot which Wdzieczkowski partially blocked, but the ball still had enough steam to carry to the goal. Before it could cross the line, however, junior defender Brayden Wise was able to blast it out of play.

Back the other way, Curley kept heavy pressure on the Cardinal defense and a mis-struck clear toppled backwards with heavy top spin and found its way into the left upper 90, pushing the Friars in front, 3-1, with 13:52 to play. Less than a minute later, Curley’s Adrian Avellaneda centered a feed to senior Tommy Sidleck, who drilled a low hard shot inside the near post for a 4-1 Curley lead.

“They battled and we were right there,” said Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand of his young squad which has nine new starters from the team they beat Curley in last year’s MIAA A Conference championship game. “The kids were defending, defending, defending, but that third goal, an unfortunate own goal broke our backs,” said Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand. “But, I am trying to instill in our guys that we just need to keep playing. Even on a day when its a little warm and Curley has a lot of momentum. This is a terrible feeling to have, but at the end of the day, we’re going to get better.”

The feelings were reversed on the Curley side.

“It was good getting revenge from last year, as Calvert Hall got it,” said Sidleck. “We came out with energy, which is what we were told to do. It’s going to be tough in the second half because everyone is continuously getting better, but as training goes on, we’re also going to try and get better.”

Curley’s final goal came with eight minutes left when Wise lined a volley at the left post where Bryce Woodward headed it into the underside of the crossbar before it bounded into the net.

Curley opened the scoring in the seventh minute of the first half as Sidleck assisted Ben Stitz who scored with a sliding shot. In the 16th minute, Calvert Hall sophomore Sean Barwick made a great individual play, creating space with his dribble, 25 yards out, and scoring with a hard right-footed blast.

Curley regained the lead in the 39th minute of the first half on a counter attack. Calvert Hall’s Trey Stallings fired a 40-yard direct kick on goal which was punched out by Wdzieczkowski, starting a Friar run in the opposite direction. Beating the Cardinal defense back down field, senior Logan Peterson slid a pass to Anthony Dragisics who fired home a winner.

Wdzieczkowski, who transferred from Patapsco prior to his junior year, provides the Friars with athleticism in the box and, as he explained, he was tremendous support in the back.

“We have Nick (Richardson) in the middle, a strong player, Kenny (Clapp) on the right, he works really hard, and Brayden (Wise) on the left, he’s always good,” said Wdzieczkowski. (Our goal) is no goals, we want a shutout for everything. We’ve only let five goals in so far this season.”

Rief Cup or not Curley-Calvert Hall soccer has always been a big deal. Last year, the teams split two regular season meetings before the Cardinals came from behind to edge the Friars in the MIAA title game.

“When it’s Curley-Calvert Hall soccer, it’s just going to be a big game. It doesn’t matter what the teams are doing in the standings, it’s always one of the bigger games of the year,” said Curley coach Barry Stitz. “The fact that we started this tradition 15-16 years ago, that the winner gets the Rief Cup, that’s something you can stick in your school’s trophy case for a whole year. The kids take pride in that and anytime you beat Calvert Hall, you’re going to take pride in it.”

CH 1 0 — 1
AC 2 3 — 5
GOALS: CH- Sean Barwick; AC-Ben Stitz, Anthony Dragisics, Tommy Sidleck, Bryce Woodward, own goal.
ASSISTS: AC-Sidleck, Logan Peterson, Adrian Avellanda, Brayden Wise.
SAVES: CH-Spencer Nattans 8; AC-Nathan Wdzieczkowski.

Photos courtesy of Greg Malinowski