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Saints drop semifinals match in overtime

The last time the Holy Cross College men’s soccer team faced the Olivet Nazarene Tigers, the two teams played a fiercely competitive game that ended in a 2-2 draw.

So, it was fitting that when the two teams rematched in the Chicagoland College Athletic Conference Semifinals, they would need overtime to decide a winner.

The game was almost perfectly even in the first half, with the Tigers taking six shots to the Saints’ five. The Saints had a bit of momentum early, taking three of the game’s first five shots, though two offsides calls would stymie their attack on a few promising plays.

The Tigers were able to generate a flurry of opportunities in the 23rd and 33rd minutes. But, the Saints defense rose to the occasion and blocked two shots and forced a third high. The Tigers earned two first-half goal kicks, but the Saints played an unyielding defense.

The teams would trade shot attempts to start the second half, but Olivet eventually got rolling on defense, denying the Saints a single attempt after a shot from junior defender Victor Sellu went wide right in the 55th minute.

Olivet did much better in their attacking zone, taking 11 shots, with Holy Cross sophomore goalkeeper Claudio Fuentealba making the two saves that came his way. After 90 minutes, the game needed overtime to decide the winner.

Once again, the Saints opened with the first shot attempt of the period, this time by sophomore forward Kevin Vidana which was blocked. Olivet, on the other hand, was able to find the game’s first goal in the 94th minute. Tigers attacker Justin Eisenmann, who had had two quality chances earlier in the game, buried his third try off a pass from Max Jasper.

Though the Saints would rally and force one more effort (a header by Sellu that went wide of the net), they would head into the second overtime frame trailing 0-1.

In the 101st minute of play, senior midfielder Axel Valenzuela put up the first shot of the period for the Saints, but it was saved by Mike Giannotta. The Saints would take two more shots, one by Sellu that was high and one by senior midfielder Elmin Ejup that Giannotta again saved.

As the in-stadium announcer began the 10-second countdown, senior midfielder Jeffrey Harper tried a last-ditch corner kick, but it was repelled and then cleared by the Tiger defense, securing their 1-0 victory.

With the win, the Olivet Tigers will advance to face the No. 2 seed Cardinal Stritch Wolves, who survived their own overtime thriller against the Roosevelt Lakers. The Tigers will host the CCAC Championship on Friday.

The Saints now fall 3-12-3 against the Tigers and finish their season with a 10-5-4 overall record and a 7-1-4 record in CCAC play.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.

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Saints unable to continue win streak against Roosevelt University

Holy Cross men’s soccer took the field Tuesday night to face off against Roosevelt University. Going into the match, Roosevelt had a 5-5 record  (4-2 on the road) and had a two-game losing streak. Comparatively, the Saints had a 7-4-1 record, as well as a five-game conference win streak. However, the Saints were unable to continue their streak, as they ultimately tied the Lakers 0-0. 

An early set of fouls on both teams set the mood for the remainder of the match. Within 15 minutes, there had already been six fouls on the pitch. By the end of the 90 minutes, there were three yellow cards thrown, and a total of 31 fouls. 

The first shot of the match would come in the 3rd minute, however the Laker’s Raul Mariscal would miss wide. Nine minutes later, Saints’ senior midfielder Axel Valenzuela would have his turn to score, but Roosevelt’s keeper would save it to keep the game at 0-0. 

The ball would then see multiple transitions to each end of the field. Roosevelt first got off a shot, this time saved by sophomore keeper Claudio Fuentealba. Holy Cross sophomore forward Kevin Vidana followed with an attempt of his own, but the attempt went wide. 

There would be two more shots, one for each team, before Valenzuela earned a yellow card for sliding into the keeper. 

By the end of the first half, the Saints and Lakers sat at 0-0. However, the low scoring did not reflect the action on the field. Holy Cross fired four shots in the first period, and Roosevelt notched seven. 

Holy Cross was off to a slow start in the second period. Within the 49th minute, however, the Saints would seemingly score. However, the goal was negated due to offsides. This was paired with a yellow card against Roosevelt, the second card of the match. 

Seconds later, junior forward Gabe Nyenka earned an opportunity via a header, but it was off target. After this attempt, there were no more shots until the 62nd minute. This time, it was senior midfielder Elmin Ejup, but he hit the crossbar. 

As the clock ticked, with no scoring, both teams grew more aggressive.Throughout the second period, Roosevelt marked six fouls, while Holy Cross had eight. 

A Roosevelt corner kick in the 71st minute would give the Lakers a much needed scoring opportunity. However, with a foul called on Roosevelt, they were unable to execute. 

In the 79th minute, Holy Cross saw two consecutive shots produce no results. The first by senior defender Erick Zelaya was saved, and the second by Ejup high. 

Both teams would fight to the end, and in the last minute of the game, a yellow card was pulled on the Lakers. 

Despite both teams giving their all, neither team would be able to find the back of the net, and the match would finish as it started. 

The Saints now look ahead to a game on the road against Trinity International University. The two teams have played 13 times since 2009 (playing twice in 2021). Holy Cross has the slight advantage of 6-4-3 in the matchup, winning the past four games of the series. 

The Trojans currently have a 6-5 overall record (4-3 conference), but are on a four-game losing streak. 

On Saturday, Oct. 15, head coach Omar Gallo looks to make this his 100th win with the program. However, it will not be an easy game for the Saints, and they must bring their all if they want another win. 

Holy Cross faces off against Trinity International University on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time in Deerfield, Illinois.

Contact Olivia Schatz at oschatz@nd.edu

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Saints soccer splits with Trolls on the road

This weekend both the Holy Cross Men’s and Women’s soccer teams went on the road to Palos Heights, Illinois, facing conference foe Trinity Christian College.

The women’s team played the Trolls first, with the match being very even through the first 30 minutes. Trinity found the edge early, with Brianna Uhl assisting Selah Hopkins in the 33rd minute, giving the Trolls a 1-0 edge over the Saints.

A Holy Cross penalty inside the 18 would give the Trolls a penalty kick opportunity just a few minutes later. Trinity selected Uhl to take the kick, and she converted it, giving the Trolls a 2-0 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. That score would hold heading into halftime.

The second half began much like the first, with the two teams going back and forth, trading shooting opportunities. Like the second half, though, it was the Trolls who would find success on their shots, with a goal by Trinity’s Demi Scibetta in the 63rd minute.

That would be the last goal scored in the game, with the final score Saints 0, Trolls 3.

The Saints attempted 10 total shots (five each half), but only two of those attempts were on net. Trinity took 17 shots and was able to put 12 on net. The loss dropped Holy Cross to 2-4-2 in conference play and kept them at eight points in the conference. The Saints now sit in ninth in CCAC play with just five games left in the season.

The Saints’ next game will be against Roosevelt University on Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. at Saints Field. The Lakers are currently 3-2-2 in conference play and sit above Holy Cross College in ninth. This game is vital for the Saints, as a win would tie them with Roosevelt and give them the head-to-head edge. A loss would put them back six without a rematch.

The two teams have met 10 times since Oct. 6, 2012. In the meetings, the Saints are 3-5-2. The Saints have had a much stronger showing in their last five matches, going 2-2-1 with an even goal differential.

The Men’s team kicked off their games against the Trolls at 3:30 p.m.The first 64 minutes of the contest were a scoreless affair. The first goal came in the 65th minute, off a pass from senior midfielder Axel Valenzuela to junior defender Victor Sellu. The goal put the Saints up 1-0.

The following (and final) goal was also a Saints’ score, with senior midfielder Elmin Ejup scoring unassisted in the 80th minute. The Saints would ride out the next 10 minutes despite three Trinity Christian corner kicks.

Sophomore Claudio Fuentealba earned a shutout on the game, playing all 90 minutes and saving both Trinity shots on goal.

The win improves the Saints to a 5-1-1 CCAC record and a 7-4-1 overall record. Holy Cross now has 16 points and sits third in the conference table. The men’s team also plays Roosevelt University next. The game is at 2 p.m. Oct. 11.

The men’s team has a historically poor record against Roosevelt University. Since 2012, they are just 4-8. In the last five games, the Saints are 2-3 and have been outscored 6-7.

The Roosevelt matchup carries less weight than it does for the women’s team. In the men’s league, the Lakers are 4-3 with just 12 points, ranking them seventh.

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Holy Cross drops soccer match 3-1 to Calvin

The Calvin College Knights are a formidable soccer team. Under head coach Ryan Souders, the team is a combined 185-25-10 and has an in-conference record of 105-4-2. 

Souders was first hired in 2012, when he went 16-4-1 and 12-1-1 in MIAA play, finishing in the NCAA playoffs. It would serve as a tone setter for Souders’ tenure at Calvin given that Calvin has finished first in MIAA play for ten consecutive seasons since 2012. Calvin has boasted numerous NCAA tournament runs, including a finals run in 2016. 

As of Sept. 27, Calvin was ranked 11th in the DIII rankings. So, when Calvin called Holy Cross College men’s head soccer coach Omar Gallo looking for a potential match, it would be understandable if Gallo declined. Instead, he eagerly took on the challenge. 

“When they called us looking for a game, we could have turned it down… We looked at this game we had on the schedule as an opportunity that if we were on a winning streak, can we continue to play well and if we were on a losing streak, potentially a game where we can bounce back,” Gallo said.  

The game started fairly even, with the Saints playing in the wind. Calvin, however, gained an advantage because of its disciplined passing attack and scored in the 16th minute. The goal came off a corner kick, which crossed to the far side of the field, centered at the top of the 18. Senior midfielder Chris Schau, who received the kick, put the ball up in the air and crossed it to the far side once again, where senior defender Colin Iverson scored a header. 

The goal was allowed by freshman goalie Isaias Rubio, who got the start over sophomore Claudio Fuentealba. Benching Fuentealba was a tactical decision, according to Gallo.

“We felt like it was a game where we had to give some guys a rest, and you never know when your other goalkeeper is going to get called upon,” he said.  

Rubio struggled to communicate with the backline which helped Calvin to generate some of its chances. It is something he will need to continue to work on in the future, as Gallo plans to continue to play Rubio. 

“[You] just got to understand regardless of if you are a freshman, we want you speaking up as that last line of defense there,” Gallo said. 

The second Calvin chance came off a throw-in late in the 26th minute, with junior midfielder Zach Flowerday receiving a through ball from freshman midfielder Jacob Ryu.

Holy Cross was not without its opportunities, however, as in the 37th minute, Holy Cross earned a corner that was kicked short. The ball was then crossed, with Calvin clearing it out of the 18, where it fell to freshman forward Gabe Nyenka, who just missed on a bending shot. 

Just a few minutes later, in the 42nd minute, Calvin scored off a corner, with freshman TJ McVey crossing the ball to Aguma Muhumuza, who used his head to guide the ball to the back of the net. 

With Holy Cross trailing 0-3, Claudio Fuentealba would come into the net for Holy Cross. Fuentealba would earn the clean sheet with two shots and two saves.

On a routine goal kick in the 55th minute, Calvin sophomore goalkeeper Kaelen Matascastillo passed the ball forward to Muhumuza. The defender lazily caught the pass, and Axel Valenzuela would steal the ball, poking it forward where he beat Matascastillo one-on-one.

The goal would make it 3-1, which would be the final score for the Saints. 

While the loss snaps the three-game win streak the Saints were riding, the loss should not negatively impact the team’s mentality when they resume conference play,

“What we said to the guys: there is nothing to be disappointed about… We made three mental errors, and overall we played very well… if anything, it is going to continue to give us confidence,” Gallo said.

The loss drops the Saints to an overall record of 5-4-1, but their conference record of 2-1-1 will remain the same. 

The Saints will resume action Saturday when they face off against St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST. 

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu

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HCC beats Goshen with freshman goalkeeper

As the 3 p.m. kickoff at Saints field neared, two very different goalkeepers stood opposite each other.

Representing the Holy Cross men’s soccer team stood freshman netminder Isaias Rubio who was making his first start of his collegiate career. Rubio, sporting the number 0, had logged just 4:31 in the previous game against IU East, in which he was substituted for an injured sophomore Claudio Fuentealba.

His opponent was Goshen’s Matias da Fonseca, a fifth-year student who last year alone had 17 starts and logged just over 1,600 minutes in net. He averaged 1.46 goals against, boasted 65 saves (a save % of .714) and recorded three clean sheets.

Given the disparity in resumes between the two players, some coaches might be worried about starting a freshman keep. The Saints’ head coach, Omar Gallo, however, was not.

“Isais is a great goalkeeper. A young guy, a lot of improvements to work on, but at the same time, we have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. He is a quality goalkeeper who could probably start anywhere else in the conference.”

The Saints came out hot to start the game, with sophomore midfielder David Ross earning an unassisted goal halfway past the eight-minute mark.

The Saints followed it up eight minutes later, with freshman midfielder Tristan Alfaro netting a second goal at 16:42, assisted by junior forward Gabe Nyenka.

Despite the quick offensive start, the Saints were not without their mistakes. A defensive lapse, and a misreading of the play by Rubio, allowed for Goshen’s Luiz Matteus Pontes to score at the 24-minute mark, with a halftime score of 2-1.

Just before the half, Rubio was fouled and injured by a Maple Leaf attacker. The injury was enough for the Saints to pull him, instead sending in Claudio Fuentealba to finish out the match.

According to Gallo, the decision was unplanned due to the injury.

“Unfortunately, we had to pull Isaias, but if he wasn’t injured, we would have left him in for the full ninety; he was very deserving.”

Holy Cross began the second half the same way it started the first. At the 64’ minute mark HCC got a corner kick, with Nyenka giving a pass to senior defense Erick Zelaya, who put the ball in on a very tight window.

The Saints followed it up five minutes later with senior midfielder Jeffrey Harper getting past the Leaf’s keeper and scoring an unassisted goal.

With twenty minutes remaining in the game, the Maple Leafs had plenty of time to close the lead, and they certainly made an effort.
At 77:32, Goshen’s Eli Simones headed the ball towards the goal. Fuentealba tipped it, but Simones’ shot hit a post and bounced in. Lucas Bontreger assisted the goal.

Despite some late pushes by Goshen, the Saints held onto a 4-2 win.
In their last two games, the Saints scored seven goals and combined 37 shots, with 25 against Goshen. The offensive success has one source according to Gallo.

“Our depth. We have six guys that can start. The leadership and buy-in with those six guys. They all understand, one game one may start, one game the other one may not start they bought into playing half a game…and we do not skip a beat when we make a sub,” Gallo said.

The men’s team will finish out of conference play on Sept. 7 when they travel to take on Lourdes University, where they hope to improve to 3-1 before facing Cardinal Stritch University on Sept. 10.