By Larry Moko
Both the Cardinal Newman boys’ and girls’ teams will be playing for senior high school soccer championships on their home field Thursday.
The Newman boys earned a berth in the 2017 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association final with a 4-3 victory over the Bishop Ryan Celtics, while the CN girls defeated the St. Thomas More Knights, 3-0. Those semifinal contests were part of a doubleheader at Newman Tuesday.
Newman’s opponent in the boys’ title match will be the defending-champion St. Thomas More Knights, who downed the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 3-1. And in the girls’ category, the Cardinals will face the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 1-0 winners over the St. Mary Crusaders.
The first-place Newman boys built a 4-1 lead against Bishop Ryan on two goals by Ethan Bastarache and singles by Tyler Bridgman and Jordan Rimac. However, the home team was hard-pressed to hold on for the victory.
The spirited Celtics comeback was led by Jacob Patten who scored two goals (he also had a chance to tie the score on a free kick from 20 yards out on the final play of extra time). The other goal for BR went to Dorian Heathcoat.
“They probably have the most dynamic player in the league,” Newman coach Gerry Moretuzzo said of Patten. “He’s an elite striker. They manage to get him the ball and every time he touches the ball he’s dangerous.
“He might have been the hardest-working player on the field. They’re down 4-1 and that guy is still grinding it out, diving on the sideline.”
Newman and Bishop Ryan opened the regular season with 3-2 victory by the Celtics after the Cardinals had built a 2-0 halftime lead. An on that occasion, too, Patten netted the winning goal on a spectacular play.
That was the only loss in seven regular-season starts for Newman.
“We have to focus and stay on task to get to OFSAA,” Cardinals veteran Alex Tougher said. “We need to get that through our heads.
“We played well against More last game (a 2-0 CN victory). They’re a very good team. That was one of our best games.”
Moretuzzo said a strong performance for his squad in the playoff against BR was turned in by Bradley Mupambawashe, an MVP of Newman’s championship junior team of last season.
“He was quiet in the first half … we didn’t get him the ball,” the Newman coach said. “Then we sort of got him on the outside. We exposed Bishop Ryan on the counter attacks. We scored some quick goals against their pressure.”
Moretuzzo also praised the goalscorer (Rimac) on Newman’s third marker of the game. It came on a top-corner shot from almost 40 yards. “That was the goal of the year,” Moretuzzo said.
“That was huge for us.”
The Cardinals are currently riding an eight-game winning streak.
“We tried to fit some guys into the system that we’ve played over the years and we realized we didn’t have the guys to fit that system,” Moretuzzo said. “So we went into a bit of a different system and it seemed to be successful. We have an opportunity to score goals with it.
“We’ve always been able to out-possess teams, but you’ve got to manage to get goals, right?”
In the girls’ game, undefeated Newman got two goals by Renata Djuravcevic and one by Caelan Harrington.