The boys varsity soccer coach at Mater Dei Academy planned to give his players something of a break from practice on Friday. With a game on Saturday against Faith Heritage, Christian Melnick said he planned only a light day of conditioning.
Plus, the Saints perhaps earned a day of rest after their stunning accomplishment.
Mater Dei defeated Utica Proctor 2-1 on Thursday in a high school boy’s soccer match.
The Saints are a Class D school with the sixth smallest enrollment in Section III (62 students in grades 9-12). Proctor is a Class AA school with the second-largest enrollment in Section III (2,081).
The Raiders are the defending Section III champions in Class AA. Last season, the Raiders reached the state semifinals.
Nicholas Page and Carmen Futchi each scored goals and Michael Simonton made five saves in the upset victory played at the Mater Dei Academy pitch in Warners. Peyton Lareaux had the only goal for Proctor – on a bicycle kick.
“It was incredible,” said Melnick, who is in his fourth season as coach of the BVM team.
“It was amazing,” said school director of athletics Tom Rowe. “I can borrow the words of my son (Douglas Rowe), who is the vice principal. I was standing next to him and he said, ‘This is like David and Goliath.’ They had us running all over the place. We just didn’t quit. We just didn’t quit.”
Melnick said Proctor has been playing Mater Dei for at least eight years. He said the Raiders responded when the school put out requests for “friends and neighbors” games as it was starting up the soccer program. He said the relationship has developed into friendly competition.
Mater Dei took a 1-0 lead in the first half on Thursday. Page took advantage of a Proctor defensive breakdown to score unassisted in the 30th minute. The shock of the goal – and the lead – energized Mater Dei.
Proctor responded with great effort in the second half and tied the game in the 18thminute on Lareaux’s spectacular goal. It was his first goal of the season. If that was supposed to deflate the Saints, something got lost along the way.
“Our boys responded well,” Melnick said “In year’s past, we’ve had a tendency to lose track of our game. The boys fought through that adversity.”
And it produced the winning goal.
Again, Mater Dei pounced on a Proctor mistake. Center-midfield Alex Mills gathered in a Proctor turnover and made a pass to Futchi, who buried the shot into the net in the 25thminute.
From there, it was a scramble. Melnick said he had to move players all over the field because of exhaustion or cramps. Somehow, the Saints hung on.
"It was a big win for them," said Proctor coach Nick Gailulo, whose team fell to 7-2-1 after the loss. "We just got beat. They were big. They were physical. They played hard the whole time, not that we didn't. We had tons of opportunities and didn't put it in the back of the net, and that was that."
Mater Dei Academy is a private boarding school in Warners and was founded in 2000. It has about 150 total students in grades K-12. It is associated with the Society of Saint Pius X and is affiliated with Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Warners.
Athletically, the school competes as an independent, but is a member of Section III and is eligible to participate and compete for New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships. Some of the key players in the win over Proctor are boarding students. Melnick said Mills is from Idaho and Futchi is from Ohio.
Mater Dei had not surrendered a goal until Thursday. The Raiders broke that streak. But the Saints won a much greater prize in victory.
“There was always a hope that we could beat them,” Melnick said. “It was take the game five minutes at a time. That was our strategy.
“The boys played not just with their minds and not just the physical aspects, but also with their heart and soul. I believe that’s a big part of their success and their belief in their abilities. Obviously, you have to have some talents to beat a team like Utica. It was just our talents and everything else all lined up for that game.”