Sports Information Director
Notre Dame, IND. -- After wrapping up their best start in non-conference action, the Holy Cross Saints men's soccer team kicked off the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) season with a 2-1 victory over the defending tournament champions from Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University.
"An absolutely huge win for our team," Saints head coach Omar Gallo said. "We started fast and finished strong. It was a tough game for us, but we battled to the end and got a result in our favor."
The Saints came out energized after their last minute loss to Bethel and really put the pressure on the Tigers in the early stages.
Following a deflection from a corner kick in the 8th minute, junior defenseman Eduardo Berruezo (Madrid, Spain) ripped a shot from outside the box that took a favorable deflection off of an Olivet player to give the Saints the early1-0 advantage.
"Edy has been playing phenomenal to start the year for us," continued Gallo. "He's taken ownership of the right-back position and has continued to thrive."
Berruezo is currently tied for the Saints lead in points with 10.
Despite the early momentum for the Saints, the Tigers were relentless with their own opportunities. They held a 9-3 shot advantage over the Saints at the half.
The Saints continued to hold strong in the first half and took their 1-0 advantage to the break.
With the second half underway, the tides had seemed to turn for the first 20 minutes; Olivet was controlling the tempo of the game and kept possession on the Saints side of the field.
The Tigers hit the game-tying goal in the 62nd minute after Richard Paret lifted the shot out of the reach of Saints goalkeeper Iain McTurk (Copenhagen, Denmark). Olivet now had the momentum on their side, and the Saints needed to dig down deep and find that last bit of fight.
It was in the last 10 minutes of the match where the Saints found that energy that they brought in the beginning of the match. They began generating solid opportunities once again.
With less than five minutes remaining in the match, senior captain Garbhan Grant (Letterkenny, Ireland) took a pass from Niko Jelicic (Sucuraj, Croatia) outside the goalkeeper box and sent a left footed shot past the arms of the Tigers goalkeeper Zach Chambers to give the Saints a late 2-1 lead.
Although time was of the essence, the Saints still needed to execute solid defense to hold off the talented Tigers.
The Tigers last major threat came in the 89th minute where they drew a corner kick. Fortunately for the Saints, they were able to clear the ball and hold off for their first conference win of the season.
"The guys dug deep late in the second half to pull of this win," continued Gallo. "Olivet is an extremely talented team who won the conference championship last season and, most recently, upset the No. 7 ranked team in the country. We knew it would take quite an effort to get a win today."
The win for the Saints is the first time they've opened up the conference season with a victory.
"It's definitely a great way to open up the conference season," coach Gallo continued. "There are no easy games in our league and to open up with a win sets the stage for us the rest of the year. We have a lot to continue to work on, but it's absolutely a great way to get it going."
The Saints (5-2, 1-0 CCAC) resume CCAC action on Sunday, October 29th with a home match against Saint Xavier (Ill.) University. The game will begin at approximately 2:30 following the women's soccer game.