The St. Mary Crusaders narrowly managed to escape from what their coaches called a “trap” game.
Entering Thursday’s (March 28) Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association girls’ indoor soccer quarter-final playoff, the Crusaders were flying high. No wonder. In their last outing of the regular schedule they crushed the two-time defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 6-1. That was two goals more than any other team in the league had scored in a single game all season – and it came against the first-place team.
St. Mary needed a shootout, however, to survive their opening-round playoff against the sixth-place Bishop Ryan Celtics at the Players Paradise Sports Complex. The game was tied 1-1 at the end of the 40 minutes of regulation time. St. Mary ultimately advanced by outscoring Bishop Ryan 3-1 from the nine-yard mark.
Lynden resident Haley Nedelko had given the Crusaders the lead six minutes into the first half. But with only eight minutes left, Allison Kielbasa sped behind the defence to tie the contest.
Nedelko, her older sister Lindsay, and Alicia Robinson powered penalty shots into the net while L. Stankovic replied for the Celtics.
Two other quarter-finals were held on adjoining fields. In one, the second-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves blanked the winless Cathedral Gaels 3-0. The other saw the fifth-place St. Thomas More Knights nip the fourth-place Bishop Tonnos Titans 4-3 on penalty shots after a one-goal apiece tie.
Cardinal Newman had a first-round bye.
John Ivinac, a St. Mary’s coach along with Lora te Boekhorst, said they expected a possible letdown against the Celtics. And they warned the players.
“Against Newman,” he said, “we got to rotate our lineup the way we wanted to. We had a great game plan and the kids executed that day. Today, we told the girls it’s a trap game. We were going against Bishop Ryan after playing a great team like Newman. Bishop Ryan are great themselves, but sometimes perception perceives them not to be. And it shouldn’t. You can’t overlook anybody.”
The tightly bunched standings reflect that. The Celtics record was 2-4-0 compared to St. Mary’s mark of 2-1-3.
Said Haley Nedelko: “I thought our team could have challenged more. We didn’t play our best. We had a great game against Newman. We need to stay on top of our game.”
Celtics coach Josie Petitti said it was difficult to go right into a shootout rather than first playing an overtime. “Overall, we’re proud of the way we played,” Petitti said. (Indoor soccer) is a quick-paced game. Transition happens very quickly. Everybody is an attacker and everybody is a defender.”
The Bishop Ryan coach praised the competitive performance of Kielbasa, a Grade 9 student who had several other dangerous scoring opportunities.
Brebeuf downed Cathedral on two goals by Gabby Krebs and one by Mackenzie Britton.
The Knights got two goals by Marissa Battaglia (one during regulation) and singles by Alex Scibetta, Julia Randazzo and Shannon Connolly.
“We moved the ball around nicely,” More coach Mario Raso said. “We created some opportunities and we were solid defensively. Overall, I’d give our play a grade of A-minus.
More’s next opponent will be Cardinal Newman. Brebeuf faces St. Mary in the other semifinal. Said Raso: “Newman is very skilled. They have strikers that are really dangerous. They like to play a possession game. They have very few weaknesses.”
Both semifinals are Thursday (April 4) at 3:40 p.m. at Players Paradise.
The boys’ indoor soccer semi-finals between Bishop Ryan and Bishop Tonnos and Cathedral and Newman take place Wednesday (April 3) at 3:40 p.m. at Players Paradise.