Cardinal Ritter’s Cinderella run in the Class A boys soccer state tournament came to anything but a fairy-tale ending in the championship game Saturday.
The eighth-ranked Raiders, who upset No. 1 Tri-West in the regional round and won four tournament games on penalty kicks, were unable to generate any sustained offensive attack against No. 2 Mishawaka Marian. Ritter (16-7-1) goalkeeper Jarred Horne put forth a brilliant performance, even in a 3-0 loss to the Knights (20-2) at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium.
Horne made 10 saves, the majority of which were acrobatic kick saves, diving saves and saves punching the ball out of the box. Coach Bashir Birany said of Horne’s performance: “Oh, gosh. Wow. He had a great game. I’m glad he’s coming back for another year.” Horne received several ovations and chants of his name from the crowd, the majority of which was comprised of Ritter fans.
“Coming into the season, nobody knew what Jarred was going to do this season,” said senior Carter Grzegorzewski. “Throughout the whole season he’s been our main guy. He’s been the second-line defense that we need. He’s made the stops he has to. He’s just been all around a great player and a great teammate and a leader on the team.”
Horne was tested early, making a kick save 30 seconds in and a punch save 3 minutes later. The first goal he allowed came when he attempted to make a play on a ball passed from the midfield into the box. Horne was cleated in the thigh as he collided with Marian’s Augustin Hartnagel, who headed the ball during the collision. The ball deflected off of Ritter’s Evan Espinoza and bounced into the net with 25:22 left in the first half.
“I knew it was over my defender’s head,” Horne said. “My dad, before this game, he told me to be more aggressive. So, that’s what I was trying to do. I came out and tried to get it but just didn’t get there.”
Added Grzegorzewski: “We came out slow. It stayed that way the entire game. After they scored the first goal, we dropped our heads while we shouldn’t have.”
Oscar Tavarez added to the Marian lead when he headed home a cross into the box off of a free kick from the right 6-yard mark. Horne nearly saved the goal, which came with 9:42 to play in the first half and was assisted by Jose Ontiveros.
Jordan Morris capped the scoring with 4:44 to play on a shot from 15 yards out with an assist from Cristian Juarez. Ritter had allowed more than two goals only twice in 23 games heading into the title game.
Playing in the state finals for the first time, the Raiders were shut out for only the third time this season. Their last game without a goal came on Sept. 5. Ritter was outshot 24-4.
“Credit to them. They’re solid defensively,” Birany said. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to be doing. Maybe we were a little bit nervous. Sometimes things like that happen.”
Espinoza’s day only got worse after the own goal. He went down midway through the first half with an ACL tear in his right leg. He needed crutches but remained on the sideline.
“When he made a cut, he tore his ACL,” Birany said. “It accumulated from one play to another. That’s a heartbreak for him as a senior to end it this way.”
Even without a state title, the season was a marked improvement for Ritter, which went 8-9-1 last season.
“I am extremely proud of my guys,” Birany said. “The way we played this whole season, the way we fought all these games, it’s been simply incredible. We always believe in us as a team. The two things we worked on all this year is heart and faith. We’ve been up. We’ve been down. But we never lose sight of heart and faith. We’re extremely young. We should be able to come back here again.”