By Tom Williams
Few athletes walk away thrilled from a tie game, but there weren’t too many frowns on the Cardinal Mooney High boys soccer sideline on Tuesday after the match with Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy ended in a 1-1 score.
“Usually I consider a tie as a loss, but we’ve never beaten this team so I’ll take it,” said Mooney goalkeeper Dalton Smith after making nine saves against the defending Division III state champions.
Larry Lencyk, Smith’s coach, agreed.
“Against a program like that, I’ll take it,” Lencyk said. “Defensively, we shut them down pretty much and we had a lot of opportunities.
“We’ve been struggling trying to create scoring opportunities, but we did that today,” said Lencyk of the Cardinals (3-3-4). “We attacked with numbers. We did a lot of good things offensively and that’s the thing we needed to improve on the most.
Early on, the Royals (6-2-2) dominated much of the play, keeping the ball in Mooney’s end most of the time.
But momentum switched to the Cardinals about 15 minutes into the first half when Pat Price took advantage of a CVCA giveaway and beat goalkeeper Nate Rogers for a 1-0 lead.
“The ball popped out and I got the ball back. I took a shot and I think he wasn’t ready for it,” said Price, who added that the Cardinals’ hopes were boosted by scoring first. “Getting the lead in any game is a good feeling — it gets a lot of anxiety out of the game.
“But it also puts a lot of pressure on our defense,” Price said. “Overall, [the goal provided] just a big lift in morale.”
Six minutes before halftime, the Royals tied the game when Christian Schmikla knocked a rebound past Smith. Sachem Wilson took the initial shot that was stopped by the head of Mooney defender Mike Trefethern.
“Playing good competition like this exposes your weaknesses, so I’m very happy with our total team effort,” Lencyk said. “This was against probably the number one team in the state in any division. They’ve been to the state championship game the last five years.”
Late in the second, Mooney took charge with four scoring chances. A shot off a breakaway went wide and a free kick by Dom DiMuzio sailed over the CVCA goal. After Rogers slipped trying to foil a pass, A.J. Overly sent the ball wide of the open goal. Jake Payne hit a goal post.
“We played well and we deserve some respect,” said DiMuzio who plays center back. “They are known for their defense and we had a lot of opportunities. We felt like we were in better shape than they were and we took it to them in the last couple of minutes.”
Rogers made six saves.
“It never feels good to tie, but it feels a lot better than losing,” Price said. “I’m happy with the tie.”