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Holy Cross falls to Canisius in state soccer semifinals

Holy Cross defender Sebastian Kuba tries to hold off Canisius forward Connor O’Keefe in the CHSAA “AA” semifinals at St. John’s University.
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The whistle sounded at Belson Stadium last Friday night and the Holy Cross boys’ soccer team collectively cringed.

The Knights were on the wrong side of a handful of whistles in the CHSAA state semifinal at St. John’s University, falling 5-1 to Canisius in a game that saw three penalty kicks and two red cards, both against Holy Cross.

“You can never blame a ref for how the outcome of a game goes,” said Knights coach Matt Tyburczy. “There should be nothing to hang our heads about because we haven’t made it here as a school in about 11 years.”

The Crusaders got on the board first, as John-Paul Bobak weaved his way through the Holy Cross defense in the 20th minute, notching a shot just out of the reach of keeper Eric Rossi.

It was a miscue that would come back to haunt the Holy Cross back line as the squad fought to cut into Canisius’ possession and a wind that, more than once, changed the direction of the ball on the field and in the air.

“It definitely set down our team,” junior left back Andrew De Canio said. “The wind did play a major factor in our loss. We had a couple of free kicks that were blown out of the way of the goal.”

Things took a turn for the worse in the early minutes of the second half as Bobak padded the Crusaders’ lead when the Holy Cross defense, once again, failed to slow his stride. The Knights were whistled for a pair of cards on the play and it was simple for Bobak to find the back of the net on the penalty kick.

“[Rossi] was upset as he was coming off the field and I told him that we wouldn’t be here without him,” Tyburczy said of his keeper, who finished with 10 saves. “If it wasn’t for him in our goal this year, we would have been out in the semifinal round.”

Holy Cross cut into the Canisius lead in the 46th minute when Ryan Sipavicius put away his own penalty kick. It was as much offense as the Knights could muster, though, struggling throughout the game to hit their stride up front. Of course, it also didn’t help that the squad was whistled for an offsides early in the game—negating a goal and adding to the pile-up of negative emotions the Knights tried to work their way through.

“We had an opportunity to equalize it in the first half, make it 1-1, we missed it, but today just wasn’t our day,” Tyburczy said. “Between the refs and the wind and the weather, the freezing cold and maybe they’re used to that from Buffalo. But it’s a tough way to end a fantastic season.”

Maxwell Montante wrapped up the Canisius victory in the 61st minute on yet another penalty kick. The squad added two more goals in the final 10 minutes of play, but the Crusaders had already done more than enough to cement their championship berth.

It was a difficult loss for Holy Cross—a team that has struggled on the field over the last few years, clinching its first BQCHSAA in over a decade earlier this season. Still, the future is bright for the Knights, with a handful of players returning next season and the squad is determined to build off this.

“Of course it fuels the fire,” De Canio said. “Most of our starting lineup was juniors and we’ve got a good number of freshmen and juniors coming up. So we’re looking good next season.”

Posted 12:00 am, November 18, 2016
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