Sports Information Director
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The remarkable 2013 Holy Cross men's soccer season came to an end on Saturday night in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Tournament Championship where the Saints fell to the Olivet Nazarene Tigers 2-1. After trailing 1-0 at the half, Alex Clarke (Liverpool, England) knotted the score at 1-1 with his first goal of the season in the 59th minute. Olivet scored the eventual game-winner in the 74th minute after Tyler Gill finished off the ball in the box out of the air that went over the outstretched arms of Saints goalkeeper Iain McTurk (Copenhagen, Denmark). The Saints continued to battle over the final 16 minutes but were unable to find the equalizer. Holy Cross concludes their 2013 season with a program-best 14-7 record.
"Every time you take the pitch you play to win the game," head coach Omar Gallo said. "Unfortunately at the end of 90 minutes we were on the losing side. Despite being down 1-0, these young men did not give up and fought back to tie the game. We gave ourselves opportunities to win the game but the bounces did not go our way. It has been an incredible run and I can't express how proud I am of these guys."
The Saints took the field in the rainy and windy conditions on Saturday night playing into the wind in the first half. Opportunities on offense were hard to come by as the first shot of the game for the Saints didn't come until the 15th minute.
Olivet took advantage of playing with the wind in the first half. The Tigers were able to keep the ball in the Saints end for the majority of the half and generated eight shots and four corner kicks.
A long throw-in late in the first half on the Saints side of the field was finished off in the box by Olivet's Ryan Totsch that slipped past McTurk to give the Tigers the first goal of the match. Holy Cross was unable to get a shot in the final six minutes and we went to the half with the Saints trailing 1-0.
Olivet outshot the Saints 8-2 in the half, but now the Saints would get the wind at their backs in the second half.
Playing with the wind showed obvious dividends as the second half began; the Saints were able to get the ball on the Tigers half of the field and control the tempo of the game.
After having back-to-back scoring chances saved, the Saints won a corner kick. Following the kick from Grant, junior captain Alex Clarke finished off a feed from Niko Jelicic (Sucuraj, Croatia) for the game-tying goal in the 59th minute. The goal for Clarke was his first of the season.
A reenergized Saints team, now with the momentum on their side, continued to pressure the ball on the offensive end. Holy Cross had a number of scoring chances that were all turned away by Olivet goalkeeper Zach Chambers.
Following a yellow card by the Saints in their own end, the Tigers got their best opportunity of the second half with a free kick. Tyler Gill finished off the ball in the air that went over the outstretched arms of Iain McTurk to give Olivet a 2-1 advantage in the in the 74th minute.
With time being of the essence and the rain falling harder, the Saints continued to fight in search of that tying goal. The Saints continued with the pressure as Troy Padgett (Brampton, Ontario, Canada) had a shot saved by Chambers in the 76th minute and Garbhan Grant (Letterkenny, Ireland) struck a free kick just over the goal in the 83rd.
The Saints last chance came in the 86th minute with a corner kick that they were unfortunately unable to generate a shot from. Olivet began to move the ball into the Saints end of the field and ran out the clock to secure the 2-1 victory and the CCAC Championship.
"It's unfortunate that our season came to an end, but I'm extremely proud of this team," continued Gallo. "I would like to thank our student body and fans who traveled, along with the faculty and staff at Holy Cross. The support shown over the past few games has been something amazing to see. The entire Holy Cross community has been a big part of putting our team on the map and we thank you for that. We will be back next season!"
Four Saints recognized
At the conclusion of the game, four Holy Cross men's soccer players were recognized for all-conference awards. Goalkeeper Iain McTurk and defenseman TJ Hendzel (Lisle, Ill.) were named Second Team All-CCAC. Senior captains Niko Jelicic and Garbhan Grant were named First Team all-CCAC. McTurk was also recognized as the Freshman of the Year in the conference, awarded to the top newcomer each season.
"To have four players receive all-conference awards is truly incredible," continued Gallo. "It shows how far this team has come of the past few seasons. To think we have won 23 games, made consecutive playoff appearances and finished runner-up in the conference in a two-year span is a great accomplishment.
On the seniors…
"Three of our seniors (Niko, Garbhan and TJ) are very deserving of this recognition. They're the foundation of Holy Cross soccer.
"What more can you say about Iain," Gallo continued. "He has carried this team on his back all season. Not only is he deserving of being an all-conference player but he definitely deserves Freshman of the Year. He is a determined individual on and off the field and his work ethic was noticed by the conference. Anytime you have a goalkeeper beat out field players you know the type of impact he had."
Saying goodbye to the seniors
"I wanted to personally thank my four seniors for their hard work, dedication and commitment to this program. They've taken this program to new heights and will forever be remembered as the foundation for our program. This senior class has a special place in my heart as it's my first senior class graduating. As a coach you want win game and championships, but more importantly, you want to develop young men. You want to help shape young boys into men and prepare them for life after soccer. Being able to watch them walk down the aisle and receive their diplomas in May will be more rewarding than winning a championship. I thank them for allowing me to begin my coaching career with such a great group of guys. We have faced adversity together, accomplished measures together that most thought wasn't possible and most importantly a relationship that will last forever. Thank you seniors as I wish you luck in wherever life takes you next. I know you will be successful after Holy Cross."
The Saints conclude the 2013 season with a program-best 14-7 record. On behalf of Holy Cross athletics, I'd like to congratulate the players and coaching staff for a memorable season. You're all extraordinary young men and gave the fans and Holy Cross community an exciting, memorable season. Congratulations on all of your successes!
Another special thank you to all of the fans. We look forward to your support again next season!