By Larry Moko
Motivation wasn’t a problem for the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals this season.
That’s because many of their players and coaches still had a bad taste in their mouth from a 2022 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic championship game loss on home field against the Bishop Ryan Celtics.
Sixteen players from that Newman squad returned for another crack at the title Thursday. And once again Bishop Ryan was the opponent.
But this time, Newman celebrated a 2-0 victory over the visiting Celtics.
“We’ve been thinking about this game for 365 days … trust me,” Newman coach Gerry Moretuzzo said.
“It’s something we’ve been working towards. We were prepared and we were healthy.”
The result advances the Cardinals to a GHAC semifinal Tuesday, May 30. It will be in Stoney Creek against the Halton Catholic runner-up.
“This was a really big win for us,” Newman sweeper Leo Kantartzis said. “We have a lot of senior guys on our team that came back. We really wanted to win this year. Especially me as a Grade 13.”
Kantartzis, incidentally, was one of the first five members of McMaster’s 2023-24 men’s university soccer recruiting class.
With the wind in the first half, Newman had most of the dangerous scoring opportunities.
“We played our normal soccer,” Kantartzis said. “We spread the ball and attacked like we normally do. Today, we played nice and calm. We didn’t get flustered.”
Newman’s goals were scored in the final minute of each half.
Sasha Trkulja headed in Noah Annandsingh’s corner kick to open the scoring and a brilliant solo effort by Blake Ellis provided the insurance marker.
“I knew it would be a close game,” coach Joe Cvitak of the third-place Celtics said. “In the second half we had the wind and a bit of momentum. We fought all game long. Both teams played well.”
Newman also won its regular-season game against Bishop Ryan, 2-0. Overall, including playoff rounds, the Cardinals’ league record was 9-1 while BR ended up with a mark of 6-3-1.
“They have a lot of Grade 13s that came back,” Cvitak said. “That makes a difference. Our team is fairly young. We lost most of the Grade 12 players from our championship team.”
Other Newman players included Massimo Cuda, Lucas DiMarco, Miles Phillips, Miguel Castillo, Michael Ciarmoli, Sebastian Ochoa-Aispuro, Adams Yusuph, Macauley Wellstead, John Riadh, Alessandro Muza, Matteo Manzella, Adam Vecchioni, Kenan Hodzic, Cristiano Kremenjas, Juan Franco-Trujllo, Luca Alilovic and Mikael Rataich.
“You’ve got to have guys that are all rowing the boat together,” Moretuzzo said. “We have that this year.”