Newman’s early lead holds up for NBL win

By MICHAEL COIT

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Putting together its best team effort of the season and backed by outstanding goalkeeping, Cardinal Newman held off Santa Rosa for a 1-0 North Bay League boys’ soccer victory Thursday.

After taking the lead late in the first half on a well placed header by Ryan Darral, the Cardinals withstood a Panthers’ onslaught of scoring opportunities in the second half as Keller Lawson turned back shot after shot.

Cardinal Newman's Oliver Trent, left, turns the ball around as Santa Rosa's Arturo Camacho pressures him during the game held at Santa Rosa High School, Sept. 16, 2010. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

A fan yelled “stellar Keller” after Lawson blocked a hard shot by Will Parente beyond the goalie box and second later dove to snare a boot off the same Panthers’ left foot. Lawson would need to make another handful of saves before the final whistle.

“They definitely went offensive and put a lot more players forward. I was telling the guys to stand them up,” Lawson said. “This was our best game.”

Not so for Santa Rosa. The defending NBL champions and large-school North Coast Section runners-up only played at a top level after falling behind, and continue searching for a winning rhythm.

“We’re not bringing it like we need to,” said Santa Rosa coach Jon Schwan. “We didn’t come ready to play. The game doesn’t start at 1-0.”

Both teams were searching for more cohesive team play as they sought initial league wins after opening with losses Tuesday.

It was the Cardinals that seemed to find the right blend of playmaking and defense to take hold of the contest.

“We tried to contain and hit them on the break. It worked,” said Cardinal Newman coach Paul Dixon. “I thought that was our best performance. They played together.”

Cardinal Newman controlled the first half largely with middle defenders Kyle McKeever and Tony Ordaz turning back Santa Rosa possessions and getting balls onto teammates’ feet for runs back up field.

Keeping pressure on to force wide clears and gain corner kicks, Cardinal Newman kept possession on Santa Rosa’s half for long stretches. Still, the Cardinals couldn’t get enough shots on goal.

Then the Cardinals struck. Christian Rencken won a ball near midfield and served it on a bounce to Darral, who swung his head onto the ball for a shot just over a defender’s shoulder and into the goal with six minutes to play in the first half.

Santa Rosa’s best scoring chance came with a minute to play in the half.

Parente, the Panther’s defensive anchor, pushed up and blasted a shot from 30 yards out that Lawson managed to get a hand on. Israel Silva took the rebound and served a cross across field where Gerardo Suarez headed the ball only to watch it carom off the left post and into Lawson’s hands.

“I was hoping to get a touch on it,” Lawson said.

The shot was one of the few Lawson didn’t have squarely in his sights. Cardinal Newman’s defense was effective at staying in front of Santa Rosa players and preventing attempts in traffic, with Jeff Harrison and James Nead bolstering the back line.

While the Panthers’ lost some firepower to graduation, they still boast some of the region’s best players.

Santa Rosa’s pressure threatened to tie the contest with All-Empire player of the year Jon McFarlin and All-Empire midfielder Diego Leon leading runs and taking multiple corner kicks down to the final seconds.

Each time, Cardinal Newman managed a header, block or clearing kick for the road win.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.