Wearing gray warmup uniforms that matched the South Bend skyline, the Holy Cross men’s soccer team prepared to play their second conference game of the season, facing the Judson University Eagles.
Saints Field was not particularly chilly, but the pitch was damp, with the clouds overhead threatening to add more rain during the match. However, associate head coach Duma Magagula said that the Saints were not worried about the adverse conditions.
“We tried to maintain [our game plan], and I thought the guys did a good job today,” Magagula said. “Our main focus was how can we defend [these] guy’s height; these guys did a good job with that.”
The two teams were evenly matched throughout the affair, but the Saints found an edge early.
In the 18th minute, senior midfielder Axel Valenzuela had an excellent counter. Despite the slippery ball and pitch, Valenzuela controlled the ball and beat defenders before being fouled inside the 18. The foul resulted in a penalty kick, which senior midfielder Elmin Ejup took. Ejup’s shot went to the lower right corner, beating the Judson keeper Mateo Ojesto, to put the Saints up 1-0.
That result held through the rest of the half as both teams briefly retreated from the rain.
At the half, the Saints led in shots and shots on goal, with seven shots, four of which were on target. Holy Cross’ keeper, sophomore Claudio Fuentealba, faced four attempts, but none were on net.
The game was still incredibly even to start the second half, with both teams visibly fatigued, though both teams were still highly physical.
In the 73rd minute, Judson put a shot on net, their first legitimate scoring opportunity. Fuentealba went up, looking to catch the ball, but was impeded and unable to grab it. Instead, the ball found its way into the back of the net, tying the game 1-1.
The goal, scored by Judson’s Pedro Botello and assisted by Christian Horstmann, reminded Coach Magagula of the goal against Cardinal Stritch last Saturday.
“This is stuff we practice at practice,” Magagula said. “If the goalkeeper is coming in traffic, there are going to be obstacles in there, so you’re not sure if you are going to get a clean catch or not, so why don’t you play it safe by punching the ball out of there.”
The game became incredibly physical down the stretch; there were nine cautions in the second half alone, five for Judson (including an ejection) and four for Holy Cross.
Between the close loss against Stritch, and now the tie to Judson, Holy Cross has earned just one point in conference play through its first two games. However, according to Coach Magagula, there is no reason for concern.
“Out of these two games, we got one point, which we’ll take, but looking at how the way we played,” he said.” I think that is the most disappointing part, we could have had this game. But I don’t think it’s a panic button [situation] yet”.
Instead, Coach Magagula sees the result against Stritch as a reason for optimism about the team’s growth.
“I’ll say it was a disappointing loss … but considering what we had done against Stritch in the years before, it was a great improvement for us. We couldn’t get the result, but definitely, we thought we’re getting in the right direction.”
With the tie, the Saints now sit seventh in conference play, with a conference record of 0-1-1 and an overall record of 2-3-1.
The next game for the Saints will be against conference foe Governors State University, with the Saints making the journey to University Park, Illinois on Saturday. The match will kick off a 9:30 p.m. EST.