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PNAC Finishes Round Robin with Loss to Mater Ecclesiae | Joseph Previtali | May 6, 2007

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The Pontifical North American College concluded its round-robin competition in Group A of the 2007 Clericus Cup with a 3-1 loss to Mater Ecclesiae on Saturday, April 28. With the loss, the American squad finished in fourth place in Group A, good enough to advance to the tournament round of the Cup, but a disappointment for a team that at times looked like a first-place contender.

In the match against Mater Ecclesiae, the NAC used its seventh different starting lineup in seven games, as they were without starting midfielder Phil Smith, who was in the Holy Land running a marathon for peace organized by CSI, the same outfit that hosts the Clericus Cup. The irony of the scheduling conflict was not lost on the team, but the NAC nonetheless took the field with great confidence against the first-place and undefeated Mater Ecclesiae squad.

From the get-go, Mater Ecclesiae controlled the game, as they applied significant offensive pressure to the NAC defense. Among their early chances was a free-kick shot from about 20 meters out that just missed high above the goal. It was clear from the start that the NAC defense was going to have to be both perfect and lucky to hold back the Mater Ecclesiae attack.

Luck seemed to be on their side as the Mater Ecclesiae offense continued to squander scoring chances throughout the entirety of the contest. The perfect execution, on the other hand, was sorely lacking, as a botched header by defender Paul Fasano led to the first goal for Mater Ecclesiae. On the sequence, a Mater Ecclesiae midfielder sent a long ball towards the NAC defense, where Fasano had put himself in good defensive position to send it back with a header. However, the ball glanced off the back of his head and shot towards the NAC goal. The Mater Ecclesiae striker outran Fasano and defender Aaron Killips, and, finding himself wide open, he shot the ball past goalkeeper Deacon Andy Roza for a 1-0 lead.

Several minutes later, however, the NAC offensive attack answered with a goal of their own. Fasano cleared the ball to the left sideline, where striker Jaime Gil was there to receive it. Gil's defender overplayed the ball, and he was able to get behind him. Having beaten the defender, Gil, who leads the team with four assists, flew down the left sideline with break-neck speed, all the while keeping the ball in his control. Then, with his left foot, he fired a centering pass, left to right, onto the foot of striker Daniel O'Mullane. O'Mullane, who leads the team with eight goals, settled the ball, read the goakeeper's position, and flipped an impressive finesse shot past the Mater Ecclesiae goalie for the equalizer. The score stood at 1-1.

But the NAC would have no time to benefit confidence-wise from the impressive goal, as their defense once again failed to execute. On the ensuing kickoff, Mater Ecclesiae sent a long ball into the NAC zone. Deacon Andy Roza called off Fasano, but the ball had backspin on it, and it did not bounce to the goal as Roza had predicted. With the ball in no-man's land, Fasano left it for Roza, who seemed to think Fasano would clear it. Meanwhile, a Mater Ecclesiae striker decided the ball would be his, and, before Fasano or Roza could react, he flipped it up over Roza and into the NAC goal, defusing the NAC momentum and putting Mater Ecclesiae up 2-1.

Mater Ecclesiae would continue to apply offensive pressure for the rest of the half, but they failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities. The NAC offense, on the other hand, seemed not to have another scoring chance all half. The score stood 2-1 at halftime.

The second half began with a similar dynamic defining the game. Mater Ecclesiae applied the offensive pressure, and the NAC defense, aided by some luck, was there for the stop time and time again. Mater Ecclesiae finally broke through midway through the half, as they scored on a free kick. The Mater Ecclesiae midfielder sent the ball left to right towards the goal, where another player deflected it, changing its spin. Roza, thinking the ball would roll out of bounds for a goal kick, let it go. But with the spin of the ball having changed, it bounced instead into the left corner of the goal, barely crossing the goal line. Roza made an attempt to save it, but he was too late, and Mater Ecclesiae led 3-1.

Mater Ecclesiae's defense continued their flawless execution for the remainder of the half, while their offense continued to apply pressure. The NAC had very few chances to make a play on offense, and the score remained 3-1 as the final whistle blew.

On Saturday, the NAC will begin quarterfinal play. They face Redemptoris Mater, which finished in first place in Group B and did not allow a goal during the seven games of round-robin play. The aggregate winner of the two games advances to the semifinals.

Pontifical North American College | 2007 Clericus Cup Schedule (Preliminary Round)

March 3, 9:30AM vs. Pontificio Collegio Urbano (Field A). 0-0 (4-3).
March 10, 9:30AM vs. Pontificio Seminario Gallico (French College) (Field B). 4-0.
March 17, 9:30AM vs. Croati (Field B) 4-5.
March 24, 9:30AM vs. Tiberino (Field A) 3-1.
April 14, 11:15AM vs. O.M.I. Team (Field B) 2-3.
April 21, 9:30AM vs. P.U. Gregoriana (Gregorian University) (Field A) 4-2.
April 28, 9:30AM vs. C.I. Mater Ecclesiae (Legionaries of Christ) (Field B) 1-3.

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:

PNAC Cruises to Victory Over PGU | Joseph Previtali | April 27, 2007
PNAC Upset by O.M.I. in Clericus Cup | Joseph Previtali | April 19, 2007
PNAC defeats Tiberino, 3-1 | Joseph Previtali | March 30, 2007
PNAC Loses to Croatian Team in Shootout | Joseph Previtali | March 21, 2007
NAC defeats PGC, 4-0 | Joseph Previtali | March 10, 2007
Shootout In Rome: NAC wins its first 2007 Clericus Cup match | Joseph Previtali | March 6, 2007
North American College soccer team wins| Joseph Previtali
Seminarians and Soccer! Meet the Pontifical North American College Clericus Cup Team | Joseph Previtali

Joseph Filice Previtali is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He is in his third year of theological studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he currently resides. In June, he will receivethe Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). Previously, he was sports editor and columnist for The Gonzaga Witness, a Catholic student newspaper, which he co-founded with his friends at Gonzaga University. He will be reporting on the Clericus Cup for IgnatiusInsight.com and the Insight Scoop blog throughout the course of the tournament.

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