Holy Cross boys soccer uses late flourish to advance to quarterfinal round

Holy Cross’ Eli Simoes handles the ball during Thursday’s second round game. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

To get his Holy Cross boys soccer team ready for the Class S state tournament, head coach John Teixeira told his players to stay in the moment and give it their all.

After a run to the final and runner-up finish in 2019, a potential state championship campaign never came to fruition in 2020, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another possible title run ended in the quarterfinals in 2021.

“Don’t wait. Just take care of what’s in front of you and give it your all,” Teixeira said. “So that way tomorrow, you don’t regret not giving enough or (saying) ‘I wish I did this’ or ‘I wish I did that.’”

Fifth-seeded Holy Cross was less than 10 minutes away from facing an offseason of regret in Thursday’s Class S second round game against No. 12 Portland of the Shoreline Conference. The Crusaders controlled play in the first half, but a mistake in the final seconds left to a 1-0 Highlander lead at the half at Municipal Stadium’s Ray Snyder Sr. Field.

Holy Cross made adjustments, but no shots would go in. That is, until Elias Wall connected with his right foot off an Eli Simoes cross. Wall’s goal tied the match, 1-1, with 9:27 to play. It wasn’t the last time Wall would be heard from.

Less than two minutes later, Wall cranked a powerful header into the goal off a great cross from Marshall Melita for a 2-1 lead. There was 7:41 left, and Holy Cross had the momentum. Tyler Paniagua added another score with 2:03 left to put the game away.

Teixeira talked with his team at halftime about not letting up. In his mind was a tough NVL quarterfinal loss to Wolcott.

“We had a great season all year, we didn’t show up for one game when it counted, and bye,” Teixeira said. “We went home and Wolcott took advantage of it, so hats off to them.”

Holy Cross appeared headed to an early exit Thursday, but the Crusaders made the extra effort and wanted it more in the end. Holy Cross will need that same effort for the full 80 minutes against No. 13 Bolton of the North Central Connecticut Conference. Kickoff for that quarterfinal game is 6 p.m. on Saturday at Snyder Field.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Thursday’s game.