WEST HAVEN >> Notre Dame soccer coach Rudy Raffone Jr. insists his team is still searching for an identity. Through five games, the Green Knights were undefeated, heading to a key Southern Connecticut Conference Quinnipiac Division showdown with rival Xavier.
As has been the case all year, the Green Knights’ defensive effort was superb, but for the third time on the young season, the Green Knights played to a tie.
Jason Hoops’ goal 2 minutes, 19 seconds into the second half was the equalizer for the Falcons as Xavier and Notre Dame played to a 1-1 tie at Veteran’s Stadium in West Haven Tuesday afternoon.
“This is two big games where we had the lead and we could not come away with the win,” Raffone said after his team moved to 3-0-3. “We have to learn how to win games. We have key kids back. It is time to start learning how to win. We created opportunities. When we create opportunities, we will have a lot of success. We have to score. We have to do whatever it takes. We will work on that.”
The Green Knights, who have allowed just three goals this season, controlled play for a better part of the first half, but could only manage a 1-0 lead at the half as Alex Mathews found a wide open Nicholas Fratarcangeli, who rifled a shot to the top corner for a 1-0 lead 8:14 into the contest.
“It was a very intense game,” Fratarcangeli said. “Both teams were working really hard out there. I’m disappointed. We wanted the win. We want to go far in the SCC tournament and the state tournament. We want to get as many wins as we can.”
After the Green Knights could not capitalize on three corner kicks, Xavier started to pick up the pressure in the latter part of the opening half. While the Falcons did not convert two corner kicks, a shot by Hoops from in close was denied by Notre Dame sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Brown-Ortiz with 9:40 remaining in the first half.
Brown-Ortiz also denied a shot from 10 yards out by Matt Ferris with 6:10 remaining in the opening half as the Falcons started to control play.
Xavier wasted no time tying the game in the second half when Dan Higgins’ shot was denied by Brown-Ortiz, but Hoops blasted the rebound home for the equalizer.
Both teams had their opportunities in the second half, but neither capitalized. Xavier’s Brendan Cutuli shot wide of the goal from 25 yards out 13:30 in and Carmelo Saia’s rebound off a corner kick from 15 yards out sailed wide to the left 17:45 into the second half.
“We work too hard to not put balls away,” Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald said after his team moved to 2-0-3. “We kept building up and building up, but we did not finish.”
The Falcons had three golden opportunities in the final 13 minutes of the game as Saia was denied from 25 yards out, Wes Reid sailed a shot to the right of the goal from 20 yards out with two minutes remaining and Jon Iannucci-Berger’s direct kick with one minute left from 30 yards out went over the goal.
The Green Knights also had their share of opportunities in the final 18 minutes as a header by Stheven Berrazueta from 15 yards out sailed wide and Mathews’ shot from 20 yards out was denied by Xavier goalkeeper Aidan McCormack.
“He is definitely coming along,” Fitzgerald said of McCormack. “We have worked with him every day on cutting down his angles. He has played well.”
Berrazueta sailed a direct kick from 22 yards over the net with 8:47 remaining and a great effort by Mathews went for naught when his shot sailed wide to the right with 5:25 to go.
“We are in a nice spot at 3-0-3,” Raffone said. “We should make the (state) tournament and we should make the SCC tournament. We should be able to compete. We have to learn how to win.”
McCormack finished with 11 saves for the Falcons, while Brown-Ortiz had nine for Notre Dame.