In an early-season showdown against McDonogh, the host Calvert Hall soccer team opened the scoring in the 20th minute Friday night at packed Russo Stadium.
It left a lot of time for the home team to protect the advantage, and while the Eagles pressed, particularly in the final 15 minutes, the Cardinals defense didn’t budge in claiming a 1-0 win in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play.
Calvert Hall, which got eight saves from goalie Nate Jones, improved to 2-0 on the season, while McDonogh fell to 1-1.
In addition to Jones’ quality work in net, Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand was quick to praise the performance of his back line. The top priority was shutting down McDonogh’s standout senior forward Jacob Murrell, who scored three goals in the Eagles’ 4-1 season-opening win over Archbishop Spalding on Wednesday. On Friday, he got off two shots in the second half, but both went wide.
“Coming in, we didn’t want to do something too different. But, at the same time, we knew we had to know where he was all the time,” Zinkand said of Murrell. “He makes some really good runs, so our back line — Will Andrus, Ben Ramsey, Josh Nagy and Gabe Glikin and Cody Angelini sitting in front of them — they had an idea where he was all the time and made it difficult for him.”
On their home turf in front of the big crowd with significantly more experience, the Cardinals started fast and were rewarded midway through the first half. Working the left side, Tyler Flynn sent a through ball in deep to Rich Monath, whose firm pass across the net was inadvertently deflected in by a sliding McDonogh defender.
The Eagles, who didn’t play last year because of COVID pandemic restrictions and bring back only two starters from their 2019 championship team, played with more composure and purpose in the second half.
They pieced together passes, earned a handful of free kicks and were persistent in their attack, but couldn’t break through.
With 8:31 to play, Ethan Glaser hit a left-footed shot from 10 yards out, but Jones had the near post covered to make the save. Less than a minute later, Usman Adegbenro had a clean strike from 25 yards that Jones tipped over the crossbar. Finding rare space, Murrell was left alone inside the penalty area, but his header from a ball sent in by Adegbenro was flicked just wide.
In the final seconds, the Eagles earned their sixth and final corner kick, which Jones knocked away. Monath got to the ball first to clear the ball out of further danger as the final whistle blew.
Nagy, a junior central defender who covered Murrell for much of the game, left the field tired, but highly satisfied.
“I just kept telling our defense to make sure we’re staying compact and communicating,” he said. “Obviously, things get hectic towards the end, so I was just making sure we were calm and relaxed and playing our game. We didn’t let them take over the game.”
After a 2-0 road win against Mount Saint Joseph on Wednesday, the Cardinals, considered the league favorite with the experienced talent they have returning, set a positive tone in the season’s opening week.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Jones said. “We had the two toughest teams and we knew we had to play well and we’re feeling very good for the rest of the season starting 2-0 and [yet to concede] any goals.”
As for the McDonogh side, coach Brandon Quaranta looks at the early season as a continued work in progress with his gifted but largely inexperienced roster. Despite the loss, the Eagles, who got an eight-save effort from goalie Will Anderson, showed plenty of encouraging signs.
“There’s a lot of positives to take from it,” Quaranta said. “I think a lot of our guys got experience and the next big game we should be better and more prepared. So I’m encouraged with the group. We’re disappointed with the loss, disappointed overall in that we could have played better in pieces, but certainly encouraged with where we are in comparison to a very good team.”
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Goals: CH -- Monath Assists: CH -- Flynn Saves: M – Anderson 8; CH – Jones 8. Half: CH, 1-0