From the start, the No. 1 Archbishop Curley soccer team made it clear nothing was going to get in its way in Wednesday’s early-season showdown against No. 2 Mount Saint Joseph.
Not even the visiting Gaels’ imposing defense or heavy first-half rain.
The Friars played their game — connecting passes, creating chances and playing responsibly in back — for a 2-0 win in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play.
Sophomore Bryce Woodward scored in the first half and the Friars handled some second-half pressure from the Gaels before senior Ben Stitz secured the victory with a late goal.
Curley, the league runner-up the past two seasons, improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the MIAA, while Mount Saint Joseph fell to 1-1 overall and 1-1 in league play.
“It’s definitely a confidence builder,” Curley coach Barry Stitz said. “It was a big game and obviously they have high expectations, and to come out and get the win is important and, for the most part, to play the way we did was important, too.”
The heaviest rain came in the first half, and that’s when the Friars were at their best.
Controlling play much of the way, they were rewarded when Woodward headed in a soft chip from senior defender Nick Richardson for a 1-0 lead with 11 minutes to play before halftime.
Pushing for the equalizer, the Gaels played more composed and had more time with the ball, but couldn’t score.
Senior Jake Mazzei was on the receiving end of most of those chances. He had a header go wide early in the second half, followed by a left-footed shot from 14 yards that was saved by Friars goalie Nathan Wdzieczkowski. Mazzei’s free kick in close with four minutes left went over the crossbar.
A minute later, Curley senior midfielder Adrian Avellaneda made a strong run with the ball down the left side before sending a pass to the middle for Ben Stitz, who took one sharp touch before scoring from 14 yards to seal the victory.
In addition to assisting on the game’s first goal, Richardson, a three-time All-Metro selection, had a strong game at both ends to set a positive tone for the Friars.
“I think we played amazing and showed we’re the top dog right now,” he said. “We showed ourselves very well and we’re kind of looking forward to going against the top teams all year.”
Both teams continue league play Friday, with the Friars taking on St. Paul’s and the Gaels meeting John Carroll. Both games are set for 4 p.m.
“We want to be there at the end, so we got to move on and look toward Friday and kind of regroup from this,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Mike St. Martin said. “I didn’t think we played bad in the second half. I thought we actually played pretty well. We just didn’t get the one we needed to equalize.”
Goals: C – Woodward, Stitz Assists: C – Richardson, Avellaneda Saves: MSJ – Carey 7; C — Wdzieczkowski 2 Half: C, 1-0
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misidentified Adrian Avellaneda.