By Jack Slemenda ’21
On November 14, 2020, Saint Ignatius Soccer once again made history with its 10th state championship in the program’s history, defeating the New Albany Eagles 4-1. This is an accomplishment achieved by no other team in the state of Ohio. The Wildcats have now ended what is likely to be another national championship season with an undefeated record (21-0).
Congratulations to the players, coaches, and staff on yet another very impressive season. The seniors deserve special recognition for their dedication to the program and hard work in this season and in past ones.
So, how did it all go down?
The key to the Cats’ game plan was to come out aggressive and score very early to control the ball in New Albany territory for a majority of the first half. A mere three minutes in, sophomore Nolan Spicer nailed an absolute boot of a goal from the 18-yard line. The five attacker setup was instrumental in allowing the Cats opportunities at the goal.
Another goal soon followed Spicer’s, this time the dangerous senior Marko Rimac. Rimac navigated his way through defenders and managed to find the side netting to increase the Wildcat lead to 2-0 with only seven minutes off the clock.
The Ignatius offense was very precise in their attacks, probing the defense and looking for holes to exploit and score on. With the constant onslaught of attacks, the Wildcats did not allow the Eagles to cross midfield into Ignatius territory until there were 22 minutes remaining in the first half. The energy the Wildcats had was palpable as they went all out for every ball and remained patient when looking for time to wear out the defense.
Despite some tough efforts by the Eagles in the first half, Liam Sowell held strong in the box and made some crucial stops on free kicks. Luciano Pechota followed these turnovers with two on-target shots but each narrowly missed the mark.
Marko Rimac again led a big charge in the closing minutes of the first half that almost had the Cats leading by three at halftime. The first half wrapped up with the Eagles back on the attack but with Sowell between the posts, the lead remained safe for the Wildcats.
Some first half stats included a staggering 12 shots for the Wildcats and only two for the Eagles. Additionally, Ignatius had three corner kicks compared to the zero for New Albany.
To open the second half, the Eagles came out firing. They clapped back with their own goal in the first two minutes of the second half. A beautiful corner allowed a nice header that fell between the posts for what would be the Eagles’ only score. New Albany caharged back after the goal, but luckily Sowell was there to make the sliding save and prevent a tie.
Three “almost” goals followed for the Cats, one by sophomore Zsombor Onodi that trailed right; Marko Rimac just couldn’t get a full boot on one that fell short; and sophomore NateTrickett got flagged for offsides, which took a goal off the board.
None of this held the Cats back as Spicer broke free for a second goal on the night despite being held by the jersey. That made it 3-1 in favor of Ignatius with 20 minutes remaining in the state championship match.
Each team played extremely tough for the remaining minutes, going back and forth til the end. In dramatic fashion Sowell made another big-time save off a free kick at the goal line. With the whole team walling up the goal line Sowell broke free and clutched the ball tightly to end the attack.
Just a few moments later junior Luciano Pechota got a well deserved goal to put the nail in the coffin for the Eagles, giving the Cats a 4-1 lead. Pechota played the entire game and was an absolute workhorse from start to finish, never slowing down on any play.
Two minutes later the team rushed the field as Saint Ignatius became soccer State Champions for the 10th time in program history. The final score: 4-1. Amen! Cheers to 10!