As fall break approached, with students and faculty preparing for the relaxation of time away from the classroom, the Holy Cross College men’s and women’s soccer teams got to work.
Women’s soccer locks up playoff berth
On Oct. 12, the Saints faced off against Roosevelt University. The Lakers and Saints were tied for eighth in the conference table, and with the end of the regular season looming, the match would likely prove to be an unofficial elimination game. If the Saints lost, it would give the Lakers the head-to-head advantage, and the Saints would be behind on points. If the Saints won, it would give them a much larger margin for error, with games against Trinity, IU Northwest and Calumet being predictably winnable games.
The Saints took control of the game early, going up 4-1 in the first half. The second half proved less exciting, with the Saints adding an early goal before finishing the match with a 5-1 victory.
Their next game was on the road against Trinity International University, and the Saints drew 1-1. The game had looked like a Saints victory until Trinity was able to snatch a tie from the jaws of defeat, scoring in the 88th minute.
After the tie, the Saints turned their attention to IU Northwest. Though there was no scoring for the first thirty minutes of the match, the Saints were able to go up 2-0, mainly due to senior midfielder Lauren Cernak, who recorded an assist and a goal. The Saints were not done scoring, with four shots finding the back of the net in a five-minute span. The Saints would add another four goals to take a 10-0 conference win.
Freshman midfielder Hannah Lemieux recorded a hat trick, scoring both the match’s first and last two goals.
The Saints carried their scoring momentum right into the next game, facing the Calumet College Crimson Waves.
Cernak scored the first goal of the match in the 8th minute, with senior midfielder Nicole Cook assisting her. Cook recorded five assists in the match and scored one goal in the second half.
Cernak’s first goal was not her last, as she would go on to score three just in the first half.
She then scored five in the second half, with two coming in the first five minutes. Cook assisted Cernak on four separate occasions. Cernak also earned four assists herself. The performance was good enough to propel Cernak to the top of the conference points leaderboard. Cernak boasts a five-point lead on the next closest points-getter, with a chance to end the regular season as the points leader.
Another standout performance was junior forward Taelyn Hendrickson, who scored a hat trick.
In total, the Holy Cross women scored a whopping 17 goals while conceding none. The 17 goals came on 25 total shots, compared to Calumet’s one shot.
The Saints are now 6-4-7 overall with a 5-4-3 conference record. They have had a dominant performance in their last five games, going 3-1-1 with a +28-goal differential.
Their late-season playoff push was good enough to lock in a playoff spot for the Saints. The Saints do have the potential to move from the No. 8 seed to No. 7 if they were to win their season finale against Olivet Nazarene and if Judson were to lose their final two games against St. Francis and Saint Xavier. (A draw and a loss would also work.)
The Saints’ last game of the regular season is against Olivet Nazarene University, which currently sits second in the CCAC table. The Tigers are 9-1-1 in conference play and boast a 13-0 record against the Saints dating back to 2009. In the last five matchups between the two squads, the Tigers have a 22-goal advantage over the Saints, though the 2021 meeting saw the Saints lose a close 0-1 contest.
Men’s soccer picks up two wins
The men’s Holy Cross team had last played on Oct. 11, where the team drew Roosevelt University in a scoreless affair.
Their next game was a road game against Trinity International, where they also drew, though each team scored a goal apiece this time. Sophomore goalkeeper Claudio Fuentealba had a heroic effort in the net, facing eight shots, but only conceding one.
The Saints then returned to Saints field, playing IU Northwest. Though the Saints were able to shoot 17 times in the first half, of the nine on the net, only one — sophomore forward Juan Perez, assisted by junior defenseman Victor Sellu — could find twine.
The second half proved to be much more efficient for the Saints. Though they only took six shots (with only three on the net), they scored twice, making it a 3-0 victory. Perez scored his second goal of the match, and senior midfielder Axel Valenzuela had the third.
According to the Holy Cross College athletics department, Valenzuela’s goal was enough to become the Holy Cross College men’s soccer career points leader.
The win also marked head coach Omar Gallo’s 100th career win with the men’s program.
For their penultimate road game, the Saints traveled to Whiting, Indiana, to play Calumet College. Much like the women’s team, the men’s team controlled the match from the opening kick, with senior defenseman Erick Zelaya scoring a goal in the game’s first minute. Zelaya scored again in the tenth minute and scored a third time in the second half to earn a hat trick. Juan Perez added a brace, and Gabe Nyenka had one unassisted goal in the 63rd minute.
The Saints are now 9-4-3 on the season with a 7-1-3 record in conference play. In their last five games, they are 3-0-2, with a goal differential of +10.
Holy Cross will close out its season on the road against Olivet Nazarene University, the 15th-ranked team in NAIA soccer.
The Saints have historically struggled against the Tigers with a record of 3-11-2 since October 2009. The Saints are winless in their last five meetings, going 0-4-1 with a goal differential of -10. The last time Holy Cross played Olivet when they were ranked was in 2018 and they lost 0-2.
For the Saints, the matchup has important playoff implications. Should the Saints pull off the upset victory, they would secure their spot in third place for the conference tournament. There is a chance they could leapfrog Cardinal Stritch for second place, but Stritch would need to lose their last game of the season against Saint Xavier University.
If the Saints lose, they will likely keep their current spot in third, but if Governors State were to win out, they could demote the Saints to fourth place.
The match kicks off on Tuesday at 8 p.m.