The Cardinals blanked Akron Hoban, 6-0, to remain undefeated and stamp themselves as a Northeast Ohio power.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- It was the kind of game that a team can use to make a statement, that a soccer team can use to define a season.
Cardinal Mooney 6, Akron Hoban 0.
"We believe, and I think every kid whether it's JV or varsity, feels we can make a serious run at the state," Mooney coach Lenny Krispinsky said. "This was the first step in that."
The Cardinals (3-0) opened this year by blanking two opponents that played for district championships last fall, Poland 4-0 and West Branch 6-0, but it was the Hoban game that was circled on many Mooney schedule cards.
Last fall, Hoban beat Mooney 7-3 and the Knights went on to a 13-2-2 season and nearly reached the Division II regional tournament.
When the Hoban team bus pulled into the parking lot of Valley Sports at 11:30 a.m., just a half hour before game time, several Mooney fans thought the Knights may have taken them lightly.
The Div. III Cardinals won't be underestimated again this year.
Walker, Willis star: Junior forward Pat Walker scored three goals and had an assist for Mooney while freshman forward Kiki Willis had two goals and assisted on another.
Walker has eight goals on the year and Willis has found the back of the net five times.
With Mooney controlling the early tempo quite easily, Willis scored on a left-footed rocket from 18 yards away with the game just five minutes old. Walker fed him the ball after making the defense commit.
"I didn't place it where I wanted to put it," Willis said. "It went in on account of luck."
Shot stopped: With nine minutes remaining in the first half, a Hoban player broke free down the middle of the field but his shot was controlled by Mooney keeper, Tim Reigrut.
The Knights never regrouped after that shot, which could have tied the game.
A minute later, Mooney midfielder Alex Simon assisted from the right wing on a Walker goal that made 2-0 at the half.
Walker said last year's setback didn't weigh to heavily on him during the off-season.
"A loss is a loss," Walker said. "I'm only looking out for the W's."
A W as in Willis and Walker and win.
Strong nucleus: "We're a powerhouse now," Walker said. "They have to know it. I hope we scare them because we're coming for them. They're just going to have to deal with us."
A minute into the second half Willis shot from 17 yards out and the Hoban goalie lost his feet making the save. Walker followed for the empty net goal and a 3-0 lead.
"It feels really good," Willis said of the two-goal game.
Simon drew the assignment of marking Hoban's top scorer from last season, Kenny Mason.
"He was a good player," Simon said. "He was probably their best player. He really didn't do anything against us."
Willis dribbled the ball around a Hoban defender and scored from 15 feet away for the fourth goal with 27:45 to play.
Conese connects: At the 22-minute mark reserve Chris Conese scored his first goal of the season, and Walker squeezed his final goal just inside the left upright with 14 minutes to play.
Krispinsky, who is in his 12th season, called it both the biggest win of his career and the best win in Mooney history which has fielded a team since 1987.
Mooney got noteworthy play from sophomore sweeper D.J. Myers, good decisions from midfielder Christo Frangopolous and tough defense from Ken Huber. Reigrut has three shutouts to his credit.
First season: "This is the first year he has played goalie," Krispinsky said. "He has a natural instinct to the ball and a lot of guts."
Hoban first-year coach Daniel DiPasquale said Mooney "executed very well. I just could tell they were more awake when we came in here."
Hoban is 2-1-1 after allowing just one goal in its first three starts.
"Kiki is a very good player, he's got a bright future ahead of him," DiPasquale said.