Holy Cross men’s soccer sees vast improvement in 2019 season
Liam Coolican | Friday, May 15, 2020
The Holy Cross men’s soccer team had a strong season, making the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) postseason tournament for the second consecutive year, and finished with a 12-5-2 record, their best since 2013. The Saints defeated Judson University on the road before falling to Cardinal Stritch University in the second round of the tournament.
“Even though we had a great season, we were still not satisfied because at the end of the day we came up short,” head coach Omar Gallo said. “However, we did make positive strides and were able to get the program back on track and a lot of that was due to how resilient our guys were. I have to give credit to our entire team. Our depth really stood out this past year and I believe that played a key part to us getting our program back on track.”
The Saints were led by sophomore midfielder Axel Valenzuela, who led the team with 27 points, and freshman midfielder Daniel Lynch, who added 25. Valenzuela recently signed with the newly-created semiprofessional team –– the South Bend Lions.
“I am extremely proud of Axel and everything he’s accomplished in such a short time,” Gallo said. “I remember when he told me he was considering trying out and I told him as long as he has the confidence he had throughout the season, he wouldn’t have any issues. One of the big differences from freshman year to his second season was learning how to play within himself. He was able to identify what he was good at and where he needed to sharpen up.”
Another player that stood out for Holy Cross was junior goalkeeper Lewis Tomlinson, who was named CCAC defensive player of the week four times, as well as NAIA player of the week once.
“Lewis is a phenomenal goalkeeper and he’s really set the bar for any other [goalkeepers] that come through this program in the years to come,” Gallo said. “The biggest difference this past year was his ability to control not only his 6-yard box, but the entire 18. He was more aggressive, picked his moments in 1v1 situations and his timing in the air was much more accurate than his previous years.”
The Saints also had tremendous senior leadership this year, with seven seniors on the roster. Gallo said the team’s final loss in the conference tournament was bittersweet, but he was proud of the senior players on the team for their contributions over the past four years.
“I thanked our seniors for never giving up and for teaching our players to always focus on the work and never the reward,” Gallo said. “It was a senior class that didn’t make the conference tournament their first two years, but never gave up and were able to bring us back to the conference tournament their last two years. Their ability to deal with adversity is something I will always cherish and I will continue to use them as examples.”
Despite losing those seven seniors, much of the production from this year’s team will be returning. Gallo said he wants to do more than just build on the on-field success from this year.
“Off the field, our goal will be to continue to make an impact in our community in a positive way,” he said. “Academically, our goal will be to maintain a team GPA of 3.0, and on the field we want to be crowned champions in the CCAC. If we continue to show good character, be invested in our degree and have the mentality to push ourselves this offseason, we will be able to accomplish all three of our goals.”