Saturday was set up perfectly for the Archbishop Curley soccer team.
It was a sunny Homecoming Day and the No. 2 Friars were celebrating their 14 seniors with a chance to build on their first-place standing in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference’s Black Division against rival Loyola Blakefield.
But they started flat, and the No. 6 Dons capitalized with a fast goal.
That early deficit wiped away the nerves for the Friars, who were quick to respond with a three-goal splurge en route to a 3-1 win.
Curley (13-2-1) improved to 10-1 in the MIAA for 30 points, having clinched first place and a bye in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
Loyola Blakefield (8-4-2, 6-3-2 for 20 points) remains in second place in the division, just one point in front of No. 8 Calvert Hall (6-4-1 for 19 points), which hosts Loyola on Monday.
As for Saturday, the Friars made sure it would be their day on Sinclair Lane with Bryce Woodward, Dylan Sloan and Jalen Anderson providing the goals in the sensational stretch of offense in the first half.
Curley coach Barry Stitz wasn’t pleased with the sluggish start and early goal, but was ecstatic about how his Friars responded.
“That’s maybe the third time we’ve gone down early and haven’t played well getting down, but we’ve been able to come back and get a goal right away,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that you need the other team to score to lift our game up and we got to be careful with that, but we responded right away and then we got into the flow of the game. I thought other than the first 10 minutes of the game, and maybe first five minutes of the second half, we played a really good game today.”
Dominic Caltabiano finished off a chance in front to give the Dons a 1-0 advantage in the 12th minute.
The next seven minutes were all Curley, starting with Bryce Woodward’s goal 30 seconds after Caltabiano’s goal.
With 21:47 left in the first half, Josef Ryan sent a low shot on goal from the left side that Loyola goalie Jordy Eckman saved, but a rebound was left for Sloan to pounce on for a 2-1 lead. Jalen Anderson, taking a feed from Sloan, needed just 31 seconds to make it 3-1 when he beat a defender before finding the lower-right corner.
“We started off really slow. They were down our throat early in the half and got the goal … But the good thing was we didn’t put our heads down after they scored,” Sloan said.
“Tyler Harry got a good ball in to Bryce and he tapped it in — that got us going. We picked it up after, the energy came and that’s exactly what we needed.”
The Dons came out fast to start the second half, but couldn’t cut into Curley’s lead. Their best chance came when Kojo Marfo-Sarbeng’s shot from the left side that was turned away by Curley goalie Chris Denholm (seven saves) and the rebound try by Julian Schmugge sprayed wide.
“At halftime, our coach told us our priority was to defend. While we’re up 3-1, we still had 40 minutes left and had to keep working hard,” said Curley senior defender Kenny Clapp, who enjoyed a strong game at both ends. "Our defensive shape sharpened up, our midfielders played tremendous and our attackers gave us options, so we did our jobs.”
The Dons have a chance to regroup in a hurry with the big game at Calvert Hall on Monday. Despite Saturday’s loss, Loyola coach Lee Tschantret saw good things from his Dons.
“They’re a good team and I thought we actually played really well today, but you can’t make silly mistakes,” he said. “And to be fair, I think all three goals, when we take a look at them on film, we’re going to be unhappy with. Those are goals that can’t go in, but that’s what happens when you play a good team. You can’t make those mistakes.”