Hampered with a nagging hamstring injury, Calvert Hall midfielder Rocco Pastore didn’t plan to play against Loyola Blakefield on Monday.
But after a scoreless first half mostly played on even terms, the sophomore decided to give it a go in the second half, hoping to make a difference.
He sure did.
With 20 minutes to play, Pastore hit a clean half volley from 16 yards out that found the top right corner, the game’s only goal a special one as No. 2 Calvert Hall claimed a 1-0 win over No. 8 Loyola Blakefield in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play at Meadowood Regional Park in Timonium.
The Cardinals, now 11-1-1 atop the league standings with 34 points, were coming off their first loss of the season after a 2-1 overtime loss at McDonogh on Friday. Pastore made sure the team had a favorable response to the setback as the Cardinals thoroughly dominated the Dons in the deciding second half.
In the pivotal moment, Cody Angelini served a corner kick that deflected off a body in front before coming to Pastore, who hit a clean strike for his first goal of the season.
“It was a half volley and I went up — I didn’t even see the goal — I just took a shot, upper 90. That’s my first goal of the year and celebrating with the team was fun. It was a great way to win this game,” he said.
The teams played to a 0-0 double-overtime tie at Calvert Hall on Aug. 31 and while both teams had some quality buildup and chances in the first half, they went into the break having played 140 minutes of scoreless soccer against each other.
A big reason it extended another 20 minutes at the start of the second half was the play of Dons senior goalkeeper Jordy Eckman, who finished with 12 saves.
Pastore’s precise strike in the top right corner, however, couldn’t be reached. Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand, looking forward to seeing how his Cardinals would play coming off Friday’s loss, was impressed with the performance.
“We came out in the second half with a lot of energy, which can be tough on a day like this — 80, 90 degrees. We just kept our press high, kept the ball to create a lot of chances, and Jordy played outstanding. It took a special goal like Rocco’s to find the back of the net,” he said.
With 20 minutes left to protect the advantage, the Cardinals continued to get to the ball first and dominate possession.
The Dons earned a corner kick with four minutes to play, but Nagy strongly headed it away. Junior defender Ben Ramsey blocked a shot by Ryan Andrews a minute later and Gabe Glikin cleared a ball with a minute left to secure the win. Goalkeeper Nate Jones made four saves in earning the clean sheet.
The loss was the first in eight games for Loyola, which is now 6-4-3 with 21 points. After an 0-3-2 start, the Dons have stuck to what has brought the program consistent success and went on an impressive 6-0-1 run before Monday’s game. In addition to Eckman’s fine play in goal, junior center back Mateo Munoz was strong and poised throughout the game. Loyola coach Lee Tschantret said this wasn’t the time to go up against the Cardinals, who had held the area’s top-ranking throughout the season before dropping to No. 2 in this week’s poll.
“We ran into a buzz saw today. The fact that it was 1-0 in our sport doesn’t really mean much — they could have easily put four or five goals in but Jordy made some great saves,” he said. “You could tell they were a little upset about losing their first game and they came in and were first to everything. Add to that, they were real clinical — it was a clinic in two-touch passing. They were really clean on the ball and moving off the ball and it was a long day for my guys.”
Both teams return to action on Wednesday afternoon with Calvert Hall traveling to John Carroll and Loyola returning to Meadowood against St. Paul’s.
Calvert Hall 1, Loyola Blakefield 0
Goals: CH — Pastore
Assists: CH — Angelini
Saves: CH — Jones 4; LB — Eckman 12