Courtesy of Catholicathletics.com
By Jared Prenda
The #21 Catholic University Men’s Soccer team celebrates on Carlini Field following their conference title. The team went an impressive 18-2-2 on the season.
For the first time in program history, Catholic University’s men’s soccer team went a perfect 9-0 against Landmark opponents as the team secured its fourth conference championship this past weekend. The 21st nationally ranked Cardinals won 2-0 in the Landmark Conference Championships at Carlini Field over Elizabethtown on November 9. The team ended its season with a 18-2-1 total record and its first championship since 2014. This championship makes Catholic the winningest program in the Landmark’s 13 year history.
CUA dominated their opponents from the opening whistle, outshooting the Blue Jays 7-3 in the first half. It was in the 24th minute when the home team took the advantage on a header from center back Ryan Kennedy. The Cards earned a free kick deep just outside the Elizabethtown box that set up very similarly to a corner kick. Senior midfielder Andrew Laurenzano delivered a heat seeking strike to the head of a diving Kennedy to find the back of the net and put the hosts up 1-0. The Catholic team would take this advantage into the half.
Less than three minutes into the second period, the Birds found their second goal of the contest as substitute junior midfielder Nelson Zimmerman iced the game only 38 seconds after entering the pitch. The play was a complete team effort as sophomore Ben Alexander pushed the ball into the opposing box before passing to a cutting midfielder Paul Egan who dumped the ball to Zimmerman at the top of the six-yard box who then rifled home a shot to bring the game to its final score of 2-0.
Elizabethtown made Catholic work much harder in the second half, outshooting the home team 8-5. Junior goalie Jack Long continued his impressive campaign by saving all three shots on goal he faced and earned his 14th clean sheet of the year.
The victory was the pinnacle of one of the best seasons in the history of the program. The team peaked at #10 in the national rankings, the highest in history, while a record eight individuals were named to the All Landmark teams. The team also cleaned up at the Landmark Awards with coach Travis Beauchamp earning Coach of the Year honors for the third time in his career and his first since 2011. Senior defender Kennedy was named as Landmark Defensive Player of the Year while sophomore forward Ben Alexander was named Landmark Offensive Player of the Year.
Kennedy served as the leader of Catholic’s steadfast defensive line which helped the team to record 14 clean sheets out of 18 regular season games. Kennedy started all 20 games thus far this season and helped lead the team to a .71 goals against average. On offense, Kennedy scored four goals to secure a position on the All Landmark First Team. Last season Kennedy was named to the Second Team.
Alexander continued his breakout success as the team’s primary striker, scoring 16 goals and recorded four assists which led the Landmark Conference. Alexander also took 55 shots on the year to lead the conference. The Bel Air, Maryland native was named to the All Landmark First Team for the second consecutive season following his efforts.
Joining Kennedy and Alexander on the First Team were: sophomore midfielders Egan and Darius Siahpoosh and goalkeeper Long. Egan and Siahpoosh were crucial to controlling the center of the pitch, as they were able to feed passes deep behind the defense and helped quarterback a catholic offense which produced 58 goals on the season, 21 more than the next closest team in the conference. Long was a brick wall in net, only surrendering 13 goals all season. The keeper also recorded a .71 GAA, and a .802 save percentage and his 16 wins lead the Landmark Conference.
On the Second Team were senior defenders Mike Narzikul and Mitch Ford, as well as junior defensive midfielder Mason Reinhart. The three caused havoc on both sides of the field as they would make deeps run down field to push the offense and send in deep crosses to the attacking players. The trio would almost always fall back and shut down any offensive threats immediately. This marks the third straight year Narzikul was named to an All Landmark team.
The impressive conference championship also earned CUA the distinct honor of hosting games of the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III national tournament at Carlini Field. The opening game will take place at 3:30 PM on Saturday, November 16 as the Cardinals host the #18 Connecticut College Camels in the round of 64. The Camels boast a 10-3-3 record and won their own NESCAC conference title and will be a strong test for the high flying Cards. The winner of the contest will play the winner of John Jay and Johns Hopkins at Carlini Field on Sunday at 3:00 PM.