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Shootout In Rome: NAC wins its first 2007 Clericus Cup match | Joseph Previtali | March 6, 2007
This past Saturday, March
3, the Pontifical North American College (NAC) soccer team played its first
match of the 2007 Clericus Cup tourney. NAC seminarian Joseph Previtali was
there to cover the exciting, down-to-the-wire match.
They had come so close.
Time after time, the Pontifical North American College offensive attack had
created golden opportunities to break the scoreless tie in their opening match
against the Pontifical Urban College. Time after time, they had missed the
elusive mark, and often by just inches. Then Deacon Aaron Killips stepped up
for the first NAC penalty kick of the overtime shootout that would decide the
winner of this all-important first match.
"Approaching the ball I knew
exactly where I wanted to put it," said the fourth-year defender from the
Diocese of Savannah, GA. "Just before taking the kick I had a reporter and
cameraman come up and ask me about the kick and where I wanted to go. Obviously
that doesn't normally happen.
"I thought I struck the ball
well and put it in the corner. Unfortunately, I hit the inside of the post and
the ball came out. It was an inch off but sometimes this can be a game of
Up to this point in the
game, the NAC had become all too familiar with the reality that soccer is a
game of inches. They had been inches away from a goal in the opening minutes
when James Adams of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, MI, fired a 15-yard shot off the
crossbar, sending the crystal-clear message that the NAC had come to play.
They had been inches away from a goal late in the second half when Jaime Gil of
the Diocese of Boise, ID, sent a free kick into the box, where Daniel O'Mullane
of the Diocese of Paterson, NJ, was by himself in front of a vulnerable goal,
only to have the ball glance off the bottom of his foot and just wide of the
goal. They had been inches away many other times throughout the match, and
they were now inches away from defeat.
"I was surprised when
Killips missed his shot," said co-coach O'Mullane. "He put a good strike
on the ball, but it took off on him. The missed shot added more stress to
the situation for us, but I've seen too many shootouts to have had the thought
that it was over with one miss."
The next Urbanianum shooter
promptly buried the ball into the back of the net, and the Urban College led
the shootout, 2-0. Deacon Josh Waltz stepped up and settled things down with a
goal in the NAC side of the second round.
"Waltz's shot put us back in
the game," said O'Mullane. "He put a great shot into the back of the net
and reminded us that we could play this game too."
"The penalty kick is a lot
harder to make than people may think, and lots of things are going through your
mind," said Waltz. "The key to a penalty shot is to know where you're planning
to shoot before you get to the ball and to set your will firmly to keep to what
you have decided.
"Your mind will try to play
many tricks on you, but deep down you have to convince yourself of the truth
that it's an easy shot and that the goalie has no chance."
As if in answer to the NAC
fans' prayers, the third Urbanianum shooter missed his shot high over the goal,
putting the NAC in position to tie the shootout as Deacon Alejandro del Toro of
the Diocese of Rockford stepped up. Del Toro confidently put one past the
Urbanianum keeper, and the shootout stood tied at 2 with two shots remaining
for both sides.
Up stepped the fourth
Deacon Andy Roza had played
a relatively quiet game in goal for the NAC during regulation. The veteran
goalkeeper had saved all four of his chances, none of which were particularly
dangerous. His day was made easier by the highly effective play of the
stifling NAC defense. The defensive corps, led by Killips, Waltz, and Steve
Titus of the Diocese of Cheyenne, WY, kept the fleet-of-foot Urbanianum
strikers away from scoring position for most of the match. Titus, in
particular, made an enormous game-saving stop late in the second half.
But now, in the penalty-kick
shootout, Roza was faced with a situation in which his defense could not help
"I try to visualize where
the ball might end up and how I will get to it, but it's hard because I really
don't know where the shooter will go," said Roza, describing his approach to
stopping penalty kicks. "As the shooter approaches the ball, I try to see if I
can get an idea as to which direction he might go, and then I go for it. In
terms of preparation, I just want to feel confident and alert, and I take
what's given to me from there."
With the shootout tied 2-2,
the Urbanianum shooter stepped up and sent a shot low and hard to the
goalkeeper's right side. The NAC goalie, having read the shooter correctly,
sprang to his right and, with arms outstretched above his head, blocked the
ball, sending it harmlessly away from the goal. Pandemonium ensued in the NAC
cheering section and on the sideline.
"Saving a penalty kick is
always a highlight for a goalkeeper," said Roza. "It was also exciting because
it put us ahead. However, it wasn't exactly euphoria, because I was well aware
that I still had one and maybe more shooters to face."
"Andy's save was really
huge," said O'Mullane. "It put us in the position to go ahead with the
next kick, and that's exactly what happened."
Indeed, Gil, the team's
captain, stepped up for the NAC in the "home-half" of the fourth round of the
shootout and buried one into the back of the net, putting the NAC ahead 3-2.
The final Urbanianum shooter then succeeded in scoring on Roza. It was left up
to the final NAC shooter--O'Mullane--to clinch the victory for the American side.
"I wasn't thinking about it
too much," said O'Mullane of his pre-penalty kick preparation. "As I set
our lineup for the penalty kicks, I had the thought that I might not have to
shoot, and that was a comfortable idea, but I also had no intention of putting
anyone else in that slot should they have to face the pressure that I had to
face. It's tough to step up to the ball knowing that the game is riding
on your foot, but I knew I was going to have a quality strike, and that's all
you can hope for in that situation.
"I just tried to take it
slow, to make sure that I was composed, and that I was in my comfort
zone. All my focus was on the ball, and when the net shook I just wanted
to celebrate with our guys."
The net indeed shook. The
NAC soccer team ran to mob their victorious co-coach. And the crowd went wild.
It was indeed close on
Saturday. But the underdog Americans had emerged victorious, earning two
points (because the win came in a shootout, the Urbanianum earned one point)
for the preliminary round-robin section of the Clericus Cup.
"For our first game, I think
we did very well," said Killips. "I am proud of the way we played as a team
and fought hard and stayed under control. It is always nice to start with a
win. My hope is that we can continue to gel as a unit and to represent our
college and our country well."
"I'm very happy with the way
our defense played today," said the first-year co-coach. "They're really
working well as a unit, which is going to be a big advantage for our team
"Coming out of this
performance you'd have to say that we have a quality team. If we play our
game, I think we'll match up well with other teams. All the intensity that I
had hoped for was present in the way we played. We also played smart, so
I'm happy to say that one of my objectives was accomplished: we played smart
O'Mullane's co-coach, Gil,
who quarterbacked the NAC offensive attack from his defensive stopper position,
also identified the intangible aspect as the most prominent quality of this
"I think we learned to trust
each other more," said Gil, who consistently created offensive opportunities
for the NAC side. "We need to continue to work on staying in position and
remembering to play defensively. I think we did that pretty well, but it is an
ongoing process. We played with the heart, and that's the best thing!"
Indeed, it will be with
their intelligence, hard work, and heart that the NAC squad prepares for this
Saturday's match against the Pontifical Gallic College. But after Saturday's
performance, it is also undeniable that they will take on the French side with
a team that is talented enough and confident enough to play with anybody.
Pontifical North American College | 2007 Clericus Cup Schedule (Preliminary
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)
March 17, 9:30AM vs. Croati (Field B)
March 24, 9:30AM vs. Tiberino (Field A)
April 14, 11:15AM vs. O.M.I.
Team (Field B)
April 21, 9:30AM vs. P.U. Gregoriana (Gregorian University)
April 28, 9:30AM vs. C.I. Mater Ecclesiae (Legionaries of
Christ) (Field B)
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:
Seminarians and Soccer! Meet the
Pontifical North American College Clericus Cup Team | Joseph Previtali
North American College soccer team wins|
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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