Hammond boys soccer coach Adrian Pinasco has thought for a while his squad was on even par with nationally ranked Cardinal Newman, they just didn’t have the results to show for it.
The Skyhawks lost three times to the Cardinals last season, including the state championship, and suffered a setback earlier this season when the teams met. That was the game where Pinasco thought his team dominated on the pitch but didn’t get the result they felt they deserved.
It was a case of role reversal on Friday night at Edens Stadium. Isaac Mikell scored an early goal that held up as Hammond claimed a 1-0 victory against Cardinal Newman, the 15th ranked team in country by USA Today.
“To be honest with you, we didn’t deserve to win this game,” Pinasco said. “That’s the first thing I’m going to say. But I have to be completely honest, when we lost on their field 1-0, we had a lot of chances and we should have won that game. Today, they outplayed us, but we scored one goal at the beginning and we defended, defended, defended. That was the difference.”
Even though the breakthrough victory came in the rematch, the confidence to defeat the Cardinals came in the first game. Pinasco said after the match, he told his team if they continued to play that way, good things would happen.
“After we finished the first game, I asked the boys if they thought (the effort) was enough to beat (Cardinal Newman) or to win a state championship,” he said. “They didn’t think it was, but I told them if they continue to play with that effort, it was good enough to beat anybody in the state. This is a huge a boost of energy to us to finally beat them.”
Mikell, one of four seniors for Hammond (9-2-1, 4-1), scored the lone goal in the fourth minute. Lucas Prickett had a throw-in and, after a tussle and couple of near goals, Mikell was able to get his foot on a loose ball and fire it into the corner of the net.
That held up thanks to the play of goalkeeper James Runge and a solid defense. The junior knocked away 14 shots and was stellar in goal from the outset. It helped that the play of defenders Lucas Prickett, Austin Prickett, and Sumpter Clarke helped him clear anything in the box.
“I yell at them, so it makes it look like I’m doing all the work but they’re doing everything,” Runge said. “They cleared everything that came in the box and if they didn’t, I was able to get my hand on it and knock it away.”
Cardinal Newman (17-2, 3-1) hadn’t lost since late February, when they fell to Wando 1-0 in the championship of the Capital City Cup. The Cardinals felt they let this one get away from them despite applying pressure from the outset. They just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“First and foremost, all credit to Hammond,” Cardinal Newman coach Will Eudy said. “Great game plan and we played right into their hands. If you had told me we would have allowed one goal, I would have taken it. This one stings because this is a pride thing. We’re even head-to-head, so if we do our job the rest of the way through and keep shutouts, we still have a chance to take the No. 1 seed. That’s what’s important.”
Runge is hoping for another rematch with bigger goals on the line.
“This gives us a bunch of confidence,” he said. “We’re looking forward to May 12. We’re hopefully looking forward to playing them for a state championship and battling them again.”