By Larry Moko
Cardinal Newman’s Drive for Five is still alive.
The Newman senior girls’ high school soccer team remained in contention for a fifth-consecutive medal at the annual OFSAA championships – they’ve won three bronze and a gold since 2015 -- by defeating Burlington’s Hayden Huskies, 3-2, in a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinal Monday.
The Cardinals will advance to take on the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league champion St. Thomas More Knights in the GHAC final Wednesday. That contest, however, is only for OFSAA seeding purposes. Both teams automatically qualify for the provincial AAA showcase tournament June 6-8 in Alliston.
More also punched its ticket to OFSAA with a 2-0 home field victory Monday over Oakville’s Aquinas Raiders in the other GHAC semifinal.
“It was a win based on hard work,” Newman coach Franco DiGiovanni said of the Cardinals come-from-behind effort. “We won every 50-50 challenge.”
The Cardinals, who trailed 2-1 at the intermission, tied the score two minutes into the second half when Renata Djuravcevic headed in a corner kick by Erica D’Alesio.
Alyssa Scalera then netted the winner for the visitors. She converted a crossing pass from Tatyanna Burke who, after gaining possession, raced down the wing and cut in.
“Coming back from a 2-1 deficit, we stayed calm and kept our composure,” the Cardinals coach said. “We played the ball to the outside where we have an advantage.”
Newman started off strong, dominating the first 15 minutes but then looked sluggish in yielding a pair of goals (one coming five seconds before the end of the half).
Alissa Stewart and Aislinn Boyle scored for Hayden after Katumina Mansaray took a cross from Burke and booted a low shot to the corner of the net to open the scoring.
Said DiGiovanni: “We closed down the middle in the second half. We really took that away from them. That’s where they were putting it to us, in the middle of the field.”
According to DiGiovanni, Scalera “deserved’ the deciding goal. “She can be called upon to play any offensive position,” he said. “She works hard no matter where we put her on the field.”
D’Alesio, a Grade 12 student who has agreed to play Ontario university soccer for the Brock Badgers next season, said the Cardinals were nervous entering the game.
“We were really intimidated because we lost to this team at OFSAA last year,” D’Alesio said.
“We were really determined to win.”
A four-year veteran, D’Alesio is “super proud” of her teammates. “We had a couple of Grade 12 players who showed a lot of leadership when I was in Grade 9,” she said. “I knew that was where I wanted to be when I got to my Grade 12 year. Leading the team, keeping them focused and getting the team to OFSAA was a huge goal for me.”
Other players on the Newman roster are Aliya Cardone, Serena D’Angelo, Maya Habjan, Carmen Hode, Lylah James, Chiara Lancia, Maya Madjerecic, Alyssa Palmero, Cassandra Piccolotto, Serena Rimac and Melissa Tougher.
Another HWCAA entry -- the St. Mary Crusaders --bowed out of the GHAC playoffs at the AA level when they lost 2-1 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Monday.
More defeated Newman, 2-1, at last week’s HWCAA final.