(Chicago, Ill.) The Holy Cross Saints men's soccer team participated in their 1st ever Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) play-off game in program history Saturday night against the Eagles of Robert Morris University in the quarter-finals. After a 2nd half surge that tied the game at 2, the Saints fell to the Eagles during penalty kicks 4-1 concluding their historic season.
Robert Morris struck first in Saturday's CCAC quarter-final matchup in the 20th minute off a shot from the top of the box.
The Saints would go on to have their chances in the 1st half, but were unable to get any shots passed Eagles goalkeeper Milco Risteski. A competitive 1st half had the Eagles leading 1-0 and outshooting the Saints 4-2.
The Eagles strong play continued early in the 2nd half as Bobby Hurwitz put away the rebound from Saints goalkeeper Victor Navarro (South Bend, Ind.) that gave Robert Morris a 2 goal lead in the 2nd half of the conference play-offs.
Despite trailing 2-0, the Saints never gave up.
The Saints offense stayed aggressive in the final minutes of regulation looking to find that tying goal. With 5 minutes remaining in their season, the Saints found that goal. Senior Luis Delgado (Lexington, Ky.) finished off a corner kick from Garbhan Grant (Letterkenny, Ireland) with a header that tied the game at 2.
Robert Morris would have one last chance in regulation to win the game with a corner kick in the 89th minute but failed to get a shot off. The game would head to overtime.
In the overtime period, goalkeeper Victor Navarro came up big for the Saints sotpping all 4 shots he faced during the 1st 10 minute period. After both teams failed to record the game winner, they headed to the 2nd overtime.
Both teams failed to generate much offense in the 2nd overtime as only 1 shot was recorded for both teams combined. After neither team managed to record the winning goal in the overtime period, the match went into a best of 5 shoot-out to decide the winner.
The Eagles took control of the shootout hitting their first three shots while the Saints managed to hit only one of their first three attempts from freshman Connor Simpson (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Robert Morris was able to seal the victory on their next attempt as Chisom Ogbonna put his attempt passed Saints goalkeeper Victor Navarro.
The Saints season may have ended in the quarter-finals of the CCAC tournament, but the state of the program certainly left an impression on 1st year head coach Omar Gallo.
"The loss certainly was tough on us all, but the guys showed everyone why were able to be successful this year," said Saints coach Omar Gallo. "The guys never gave up and rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the final 11 minutes to tie the game up. I'm very proud of how the guys fought in this game and never gave up."
"This year has been a historic season for our program, and I thank the guys for making my 1st year as head coach a memorable one," continued coach Omar. "We were able to accomplish many accolades and break every school record which shows how far the program has come."
The most important accolade for the Saints this season was making their 1st ever conference tournament appearance.
"My motivation, as well as assistant coach Kyle Zaber's motivation, was proving that we could build a successful program here at Holy Cross. The respect the guys have earned from the College, the conference, and other coaches has really put us on the map."
With the 2012 season in the books, coach Omar had one final thing to share:
"On behalf of the soccer team, I would like to personally thank the Holy Cross community for your continuous support during our historic season," stated coach Omar. "I would like to give a special thank you to our athletic director, Bob Schermerhorn, for giving us a beautiful facility to play our home games on campus. It had a major impact on our season."
"To our admission's staff, thank you for all your hard work in helping us get the athletes we brought in."
"A special thank you goes out to our sports information director, John Brodbeck. He was a main part of getting our men's soccer program out there."
"To the Holy Cross Community who I did not mention, you know who you are, thank you your endless support. We couldn't have done this without you."
Now that the season has come to an end, coach Omar is looking forward to having some quality time with his family.
"Without my family, none of this would be possible. It has been many long hours away from home, and I'm looking forward to sitting back and enjoying that special time with my wife (who is expecting) and two kids."
On behalf of the Holy Cross Athletics Department, we would like to congratulate coach Omar and the Saints men's soccer team on their historical season. It has been a real pleasure watching the team grow, and I look forward to the future with Saints soccer.
Until next season, stay tuned to hcsaints.com for all your soccer news. Several players are up for conference honors, including coach Omar for Coach of the Year, and results will be posted once made official.