Prep soccer: Cardinal Newman settles for tie

JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat Cardinal Newman defender Lucas Rivola battles for the ball against a Redwood forward in the 1-1 tie in Santa Rosa on Wednesday.

By MICHAEL COIT

The Press Democrat

Coming away with a tie in the first game on their new field, Cardinal Newman showed flashes of strong play against Redwood and could be a North Bay League contender.

Sometimes sloppy defense around the goal, however, caught up with the Cardinals as Redwood scored late to even the contest 1-1, denying Cardinal Newman a season-opening victory.

“We’re still bonding together, figuring out what to do. If we get playing fast and how we should be, we’ll be in contention,” said Kyle McKeever, a midfielder and returning starter.

With 14 of the team’s 19 players back from a year ago, Cardinal Newman is deep and talented, as well as athletic. The teamwork will come.

“We had a lot of effort today. Our hustle was good. They didn’t let down,” said assistant coach Tom Corriveau. Coach Paul Dixon is in Ireland following his mother’s death.

Cardinal Newman faced a Redwood squad that already played two games, losing a tough contest to formidable Santa Rosa after defeating Mission of San Francisco.

“We try to schedule very, very strong teams to get us ready for our season,” said Redwood coach Brandon Murphy. “We just had to scratch and battle and claw to stay in it today.”

Opening the game with two strong shots and putting pressure on Redwood during long stretches, Cardinal Newman was sharp enough with its passing and midfield play, led by McKeever and Christian Rencken.

“Teamwork is what we preach. We had chances, didn’t put them in,” Corriveau said.

Still, the Giants took more shots in the half, combining long runs up the sideline by Brian von Lackum with serves into the middle from Jack Treacy.

After a scoreless first half, Cardinal Newman kept the ball on Redwood’s side early in the second. The Cardinals gained a series of corner kicks following clearing boots by the Giants deep in their end.

Set-play specialist McKeever sent a corner kick from the right side over near post defenders, and Jeff Harrison rose to direct in a header for the game’s first goal.

“I just try to put it right in the middle of the box,” McKeever said. “That was one of the better ones. Christian’s really good with the headers and that makes it easier.”

The younger Redwood team tightened on defense. Andrew Suliteanu largely carried the play for the Giants in the midfield, stopping Cardinal Newman advances and getting the ball to forwards Joe Balmain and Jack Elton.

“We’re a little on the smaller side. But our starters are all very talented players,” Murphy said. “Our athleticism and speed kept us in the game.”

Cardinal Newman’s defense took a hit when backfield anchor Kevin McGowan left the game with a right arm injury late in the first half. His absence was apparent when balls weren’t cleared out from deep in the Cardinals end.

The game-tying goal was set up when Redwood put pressure on the Cardinals and defenders could only push the ball out over the end line. On the corner kick, Elton lifted the ball into the box for a header from Balmain.

Despite the tie, the Cardinals weren’t frustrated. The team has work to do, but is confident of getting back into the North Coast Section playoffs.

“We’re making it to the playoffs this year. That’s our goal,” McKeever said.