Holy Cross women end season in CCAC quarterfinals

The Holy Cross College women’s soccer team recently played the Olivet women’s team in their opening round of the CCAC tournament.

The last time the two squads played, Olivet was able to defeat the Saints 0-3. Armed with a new strategy, the Saints hoped to shut down the Olivet offense, forcing turnovers to generate scoring chances.

Unfortunately for the Saints, things did not go according to plan.

Olivet was able to shoot early and often, taking 10 shots in the first half alone. The Saints were only able to shoot once, with senior midfielder Olivia Shaw taking the shot in the 26th minute.

Holy Cross sophomore goalie Taylor Primack faced four shots on goal in the first half, and she turned away all but one, which came in the 38th minute (scored by Olivet’s Annabel Murley). That 1-0 margin was the halftime score.

The Saints opened up the half with some early shots, but both missed the net. Olivet’s first shot of the half found twine, with Alaina Bahr assisting Olivia Lorenc for the score.

The Saints generated more offense in the second half than they did in the first, taking nine of their ten total shots.

However, Olivet’s goalie, Tessa Kowalski, shut out the Saints, and the Tigers would win 2-0.

Saints battled adversity to reach tournament

The Saints failed to earn either of the conference’s two automatic bids to the NAIA tournament and are unlikely to qualify for an at-large bid.

Instead, the Saints will finish their season with a 6-6-7 record overall and a 5-5-3 record in conference play.

The Saints had two notable bright spots this year, making history in two different ways. The team went 1-0-3 in an unbeaten non-conference regular season, which was a program first.

The Saints also saw senior midfielder Lauren Cernak break both the goal and assists records for the program. By setting those two records, Cernak earned 100 career points and became the career points leader for the program.

Though the season ended earlier than the team had hoped, the women’s season was able to battle through difficult injury problems, rallying late in the season to make the conference tournament.

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Saints women’s soccer falls to Judson

On Sept. 14, the Holy Cross women’s soccer team played their second home conference game of the season, facing off against the Judson Eagles. 

Judson wasted no time, scoring quickly in the ninth minute of action. The goal came off a rebound, and freshman goalkeeper Taylor Primack was able to block the initial shot. However, the ball lingered just outside the six-yard box where Judson’s Alex Wawrzyniak was able to chip it in. 

Almost nine minutes later, Judson scored again. This time, Wawrzyniak placed an exceptionally thorough ball to teammate Alondra Blanco, setting her up for a 1-1 with Primack. Left with no other option, Primack attempted to challenge for the ball, but Blanco was able to chip the shot up and in. 

Holy Cross replied before the half, with senior midfielder Lauren Cernak scoring on a corner kick, making it a 1-2 game. Cernak was not entirely done, however. In minute 62, Cernak was able to field a long airborn pass from Abby Craig. Cernak then drove hard to the goal, beating the keeper and launching the ball into the empty net.

With the score tied 2-2, both teams began to get increasingly physical, leading to an altercation in minute 66. It resulted in a caution for junior midfielder Kassidi Puthoff and an ejection for Judson’s Wawrzyniak (Violent Conduct One). After receiving the red card, Wawrzyniak walked off the pitch and into the Holy Cross forest, where she watched the rest of the match.

The ejection gave Holy Cross an advantage for the rest of the match. The game remained even until 80:58, when Kelly Leon had an exceptional drop pass to Natalia Ruiz, freeing her up to score what would ultimately be the gaming-winning goal for Judson. 

The game remained a physical, competitive match with Holy Cross unable to take advantage of being a man up on Judson. The Saints ultimately fell 2-3.

Head coach Omar Gallo took longer than usual to address the players after the loss, talking incredibly soft. The message? Stay positive. 

“Anytime you are in these situations, you have got to find a positive out of that negative situation,” Gallo said. “Being down two goals and battling back shows that we can deal with adversity, and that’s something we have got to continue to focus on.”

The loss sends Holy Cross to an overall record of 1-2-4, with a 0-2 record in conference play. Currently, the Saints are tied for last place with five other teams, including Governors State and IUSB. Though two hard-fought games have resulted in 0 points, Gallo is not disappointed by the results.

“We know that Stritch and Judson are going to be two of the top teams in the conference, and we’re there,” Gallo said. “Both games were lost by one goal, but we are not discouraged by these results. We are in these games, we just got to play to the final whistle.”

There is absolutely a sense of urgency, especially with the Saints’ next game against Governors State — an opponent they are tied in the standings with. 

“Going into Governors State, yeah, there definitely is some urgency,” Gallo said. “We have got to get three points on the board on Saturday.”

The game against Governors State might be just what the doctor ordered for the Saints. Historically, Holy Cross has dominated the Jaguars. The last time the two teams met, Holy Cross won 5-0.

The two teams will meet Saturday, Sept. 17 in University Park, Illinois. The match kicks off at 6:00 p.m.

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