Chief Sports Editor
After a frustrating sleight of results in non-conference play to open the season, the Holy Cross Men’s Soccer team secured a crucial win over Navy last weekend at Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium in Worcester, Mass. The Crusaders (1-3-3 overall, 1-0 Patriot League) netted their first victory of the season in yet another match that required overtime. It was Holy Cross’ fourth consecutive game that was undecided after 90 minutes and fifth in seven games so far this season. For the Crusaders, the first win could not have come at a better time, as they could not afford to drop points against a Navy team that finished last in the Patriot League last season.
The first 25 minutes saw little action, but the Crusaders eventually began to put pressure on the Navy (0-6-1 overall, 0-1 Patriot League) goal. In the 27 minute, senior wingback Garrett Leahy played a diagonal ball to senior forward Mason Brummett, who showed impressive control to bring the ball to ground and lay it off for first-year standout Simon Becher, whose sharp effort from outside the box narrowly whizzed by the post. Moments later, the Crusaders won a free kick from about 35-yards out. Sophomore midfielder Max Krause sent a dangerous ball into the box that was misplayed by Midshipmen sophomore keeper Ian Bramblett. The ball bounced around in front of goal until junior midfielder Luka Milidragovic set up senior forward R.J. Place, who poked in his first goal of the season to put the Crusaders ahead.
The slim Holy Cross advantage seemed secure in the early moments of the second half, but Navy equalized in fluky fashion in the 61st minute. Sophomore center back Edi Mujan’s clearance of a Navy through ball met sophomore forward Phillip Gustafson on the edge of the box. The Midshipman took a heavy touch into the Holy Cross box, where Leahy was in position to make a clearance and neutralize the threat. However, his kick caromed off a leaping Gustafson, whose touch dinked the ball over the reach of Crusader senior goalkeeper Henry Stutz and into the net for the equalizer. The Holy Cross defense looked strong throughout the match and Stutz was unlucky to concede. For the fourth straight game, the Crusaders headed for overtime.
The game seemed destined for a second overtime period before a late winner for the Crusaders. Becher carried his run into the final third down the right flank, drawing the full attention of the Navy defense. He picked out the run of senior midfielder Bobby Barsic from the left wing. The Ohio native took a few patient touches, cut middle near the top of the box, and then rifled a low strike past the Navy keeper and into bottom right corner to seal a much-needed win for the Crusaders. It was a great time for Barsic’s first career collegiate goal.
It was important for Holy Cross to get off to a strong start in the Patriot League. Six of the ten teams in the league make the playoffs, and typically teams have to win at least four league matches to crack into the top six. Collecting all three points against the weaker teams in the league, especially at home, is paramount if the Crusaders want to get back to the Patriot League Tournament this fall for the second consecutive season. Last year, Holy Cross reached the Patriot League Tournament Final as the five-seed, falling to Colgate 1-0. The Crusaders feel they can duplicate or even surpass that success this season. They travel to Easton, Penn., this weekend to take on Lafayette, the Crusaders’ first road test in the league this season. Lafayette finished ninth in the Patriot League last year, so Holy Cross will be looking to secure another three points and remain unbeaten in league play.