By Jared Prenda
The Men’s Soccer team is off to a hot start to its season as it sits at number 9 in the Mid Atlantic region following a 2-1 home win over conference rival Scranton. The ranking season is decided in a poll by the United Soccer Coaches organization and the team has not left the rankings since the start of the season, moving up from 10 in last week’s poll. The team currently sits with a 4-3 record, and a perfect 1-0 in conference play.
The team is excited about its early success and they are doing it in an unconventional way. Instead of the traditional method of naming the star players or seniors captains, team coach Travis Beauchamp has decided to run the team through a “team leadership council.” This team council is comprised of two members of each class, excluding freshman. Seniors Tyler Martin and Corbin Brailsford are joined on the council by juniors Ryan Kennedy and Mike Narzikul, and sophomores Nick Battaglia and Nelson Zimmerman. This unorthodox method has clearly reaped benefits, and the team supports it, as Martin explained.
“I think it’s good for team unity, every kid gets a voice no matter their year because there are 2 council members from each year. The younger guys usually don’t get heard as much with the standard captains.”
The matchup against the Scranton Royals was the Bird’s first game in Conference play and entered the game with a 3-2 record. One of those losses came to number 17 Mary Washington on the road.
The Cardinals got off on the right foot against their conference opponents and scored both of their goals within three minutes of each other. Senior forward Brian Galfond opened the scoring for the Birds in the 28th minute when he slid home a low cross from council member Narzikul. Only a few short minutes later, junior Bradley Pierro launched a 25-yard rocket to expand the lead to 2-0.
This lead was short lived however, as the Royals managed to net one of their own only 12 seconds later to cut the lead in half. The Cardinals dominated the first half of play, outshooting their opponents 12-2 and controlling the ball for almost the entire 45-minute period.
The second half was much less eventful with neither side drawing any more blood, ending the game 2-1. The Cardinals outshot their foes 20-6, in large part due to their defenders. Narzikul, classmate Mitch Ford, and fellow council member Battaglia held the Royals to only 2 shots on goal and played over 80-minutes each. Their stalwart defense helped advance sophomore goalie Jack Long’s record to 4-2 on the year.
This defensive standout is no fluke for the team, however, as they have only surrendered 10 goals in their 7 games played this year. This style and quality of play, as well as how highly they are ranked, has the team feeling confident in the rest of their season and beyond.
“We have a really great opportunity to make some noise not only in the conference but in the NCAA tournament,” stated Brailsford. “We have a very talented and versatile group that can compete with anyone. We’re taking it game by game but truly believe we can go far.”
The Cardinals dropped their next game against Salisbury 3-1, but had only 12 men listed on the roster compared to its standard 20.
Despite this the team will go on the road to face their stiffest competition of the year in the Drew Rangers. Drew is the only Landmark team ranked above Catholic, sitting at 6 in the rankings. This matchup will likely be a preview of the Landmark Conference finals and will take place on Saturday, September 29th at Drew in Madison, New Jersey.