PORTLAND >> The beat goes on for the Xavier soccer team.
The No. 2 Falcons remained undefeated with a dramatic win over No. 15 Newington in a Class LL second-round match decided by penalty kicks at the Oakwood Soccer Club Thursday afternoon. The score goes into the books as 1-0, as after a scoreless 80 minutes plus two scoreless 10-minute overtimes, the Falcons won the penalty kick phase, 5-3.
Brandon Charton, Brendan Butler, Joe McCormack, Cesar Rivera and Joey Zacchia all converted on their kicks, while Xavier goalkeeper Dan Miela stopped Mike Rubalsky’s PK on Newington’s second chance. When Zacchia tallied on the Falcons’ fifth chance, the match ended.
Mitchell Ambruso, Kurt Swenor and Brian Goncalves converted their kicks for Newington.
“I’m getting too old for this,” said Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald, who saw his team improve to 17-0-4. “It certainly was exciting and I thought both teams played very well. It’s a shame it had to end on penalty kicks, but I can’t think of another way to determine a high school match.”
This was a defensive struggle throughout. Newington had just eight shots all day: four in the first half, three in the second and one in the overtime periods. Xavier had seven shots: three in the first half, one in the second, and three in overtime.
Newington (8-5-4) dominated play early. For the first 10 minutes, Newington attacked. But shots were hard to come by. Newington keeper Chris Kapuscinski made a nice save with about 17 minutes left in the first half and the Indians got a good shot on goal with nine minutes left in the half.
But for much of the day, most of the action was in the middle of the field.
Kapuscinski had three saves, but two came in a flurry in the closing seconds of the second overtime. Miela had three saves, including a beauty with four minutes left in the first half. A Newington shot sailed over Miela’s head and hit the crossbar from the deep left side – arguably Newington’s best chance to score – 20 minutes into the second half.
“To lose by penalty kicks is disappointing,” said Newington coach Jeff Brunetti. “I couldn’t be prouder of my kids. We played a very good team on even terms and played very well. We gave it everything we had and the kids did all they could.”
Fitzgerald said that the one of the keys to his team’s play was the performance of backs Ken Callahan and Tom Gardiner. “They played very well and anchored our defense,” he said.
The game was played in rain that varied from light to moderate throughout, along with a cold north wind that made for a miserable afternoon.
“I think the field conditions had a lot to do with the lack of offense,” said Fitzgerald. “We couldn’t play the way we wanted to.”
So as the Falcons advance to host Staples on Saturday (TBA) in the Class LL quarterfinals, the question is: Just how good is this undefeated team?
“The boys are playing well,” said Fitzgerald. “I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet. We’re almost there. When we find our rhythm we’re pretty good. We are getting better and better and I hope we are peaking at the right time.”