Fast start, big save lift Fri­ars in ti­tle re­match

Wdzieczkowski makes key stop; Ea­gles hit cross­bar, post but are un­able to tie

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - By Glenn Gra­ham glenn.gra­ham@balt­ twit­­nGra­hamSun

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.”

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