Fast start, big save lift Friars in title rematch
Wdzieczkowski makes key stop; Eagles hit crossbar, post but are unable to tie
The Archbishop Curley soccer team was impressive in building an early two-goal advantage at McDonogh on Friday in a rematch of last year’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game.
From there, the No. 2 Friars did what it took to fend off the defending league champion and No. 3 Eagles for a 2-1 win.
After a strong opening 20 minutes that produced goals from juniors Ben Stitz and Nick Richardson, the Friars bent a bit.
McDonogh junior Andrew Privett finished off a free kick to get one goal back for the Eagles in the first half, but that was the end of the scoring.
The Friars had a chance to pad the lead and reclaim momentum but missed a penalty kick minutes after Privett’s goal. In the second half, Curley junior goalie Nathan Wdzieczkowski made a brilliant fingertip save early and the Eagles sent shots off the post and crossbar as they pressed for a tying goal that never came.
“Wewere off to a great start, up 2-0, and then we were really pressing to get the third one, but we just couldn’t make a play,” Curley coach Barry Stitz said. “They got the goal and it kind of leveled things out. The second half was wide open with both teams having chances. They hit the post a couple times, and our keeper made a world-class save.”
Wdzieczkowski, who splits time in goal with senior Ben Gentry, made the big save when his team needed it most. McDonogh junior Casey Settleman ripped a shot from 15 yards that was headed for the left corner. Wdzieczkowski quickly reacted to make the diving save to protect the advantage.
“I always tell the guys in the game of soccer, against two evenly matched teams, you have to make plays,” Stitz said. “That’s scoring goals when you have the opportunity, getting a good pass off and also making a save as a keeper, and that was a big save for us.”
While the Friars had nine starters back from last year’s team, the Eagles are largely new, with just three back. Despite the loss, the team’s hard work and poise after falling behind early was a positive sign for coach Brandon Quaranta.
“I just told the group I was really proud of that second half,” he said. “In the first 20 minutes, we looked liked a young group – a little scared of a veteran group that we knew was a good team and we didn’t react and gave up two goals. At that point, we could have gone down three or four and it could have been a blowout. But we got a great free kick from Andrew and that was important at the time to draw us back. And to be honest, in the second half, I thought our response was great and we may have been the better team.”
Richardson, an All-Metro junior defender who played a strong game in back in addition to scoring what turned out to be the winning goal, is impressed with what he’s seen so far from the Friars.
“I think we’ve come into this season with a better attitude this year,” he said. “After last season, we had a little revenge for them. Coming in today, we felt very confident and we felt comfortable playing the ball around their defense, and everybody played well.”