Surging Dutch Fork completed a 5-0 sweep at the Airport Select Invitational soccer tournament with a 3-2 win over Cardinal Newman in Sunday’s championship match at Eagle Stadium.
It was the eighth straight win for the veteran Silver Foxes (12-6) who return the bulk of the starting lineup from last season’s Class 4A final four side.
“It’s starting to come together,” said DF coach Todd Woodward. “We have all the talent, all the potential in the world but we got off to a bad start this season. Things weren’t going our way early and the guys got frustrated. This week’s the best soccer we’ve played in a long time.”
The 7-0 run this week began with a 2-1 upset of Region 5-4A rival Lexington – the team that denied the Silver Foxes in the Lower State championship match last season – and concluded with a gratifying tournament-clinching win over the Cardinals who prevailed over DF by the same score in last season’s ASI finale.
The Silver Foxes ruled the opening 40 minutes, out-shooting the listless Cardinals 10-3 and building a commanding 3-0 lead. Team scoring leader Ryan Ross got DF on the board in the 7th minute and closed out the half with a breakaway tally in the 40th minute. In between, Jacob Kaufmann scored on a rebound in the 14th minute.
Though the Foxes dominated the first half, they were forced to play one man down in the second half after a player received a second card just prior to intermission.
Cardinal Newman took advantage of the situation, especially on set pieces. The Cardinals scored on two free kicks and continued to press the issue, but the Silver Foxes, who basically abandoned any offensive designs after the break, held on.
CN had a lopsided 15-1 advantage in shots and posted two goals on free kicks – by Cam Parker and Max Lapin in the 42nd minute and the 52nd minute, respectively. Lapin’s score came on a deft header while positioned at the right post that eluded DF keeper Alex McGee.
But that was as close as the Cardinal would get.
“I though we moved the ball and communicated very well in the first half, and we did what we had to do in the second half to get the win,” said Woodward. “It’s never easy playing a man down, and to do it against a team as talented as Cardinal Newman is a tribute to our determination. Hopefully, we can keep this going after a rough start.”
It was the first-ever ASI loss for the Cardinals, who entered the title match with an all-time 13-0-1 tournament record and two championship trophies. But the inexplicable sluggish performance in the first half proved too much to overcome.
“It was a horrible first half, and it’s something that for some reason has plagued us all season,” said CN coach Will Eudy, whose defending SCISA championship team stands at 9-4-3.
“We haven’t put together good, 80-minute matches on a consistent basis. We seem to be struggling with having the bull’s eye on our backs. We’re a good team, but we’re not a great team yet. Right now, it’s all about getting it together for the start of the playoffs in May.”