NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Catholic University men's soccer team advanced through the First Round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon, defeating Lynchburg, 2-0.
Playing its first match in 10 days' time, the Cardinals performed well from front to back to earn the victory.
While the team sheet was full of inspired performances, sophomore Domenic Caltabiano would not be denied on the day, providing an assist and finding the net himself to power Catholic to the win.
After Landmark Conference Offensive Player of the Year Darius Siahpoosh drew a foul in a dangerous area, Caltabiano provided a devastating delivery from the deadball. Sophomore center back Owen Maher rose highest in the penalty area, nodding home to push Catholic ahead in the 31st minute.
Ryan Kelly nearly doubled the Cardinal advantage just moments later but saw his strike repelled by the upright.
After Catholic took the 1-0 advantage to the break, Lynchburg produced its best spell of pressure following halftime. The Hornets saw multiple attempts sail high and wide of the Cardinal goal before Travis Beauchamp's men grew into the half.
Just after Gordie Bernlohr produced Catholic's two best chances of the second half, Caltabiano produced a moment of brilliance.
After a Lynchburg turnover in the midfield, Liam Giblin picked up the ball before Ben Zimmer played it forward quickly to Caltabiano. With teammates rushing forward on either side and defenders backing off, he curled a sumptuous strike past the helpless Justin Ennis in the Hornets goal to double the Cardinal advantage in the 63rd minute.
From there, Catholic was able to defend the lead and kill the game with the help of their senior goalkeeper Austin Coron. The Landmark Conference first-team selection made three saves en route to his sixth full shutout of the season, including an incredible stop diving to his right to not only save, but hold a flicked header in the final five minutes.
The entire backline of Maximilian Penczar, Andrew Lowman, Giblin and Maher played the full 90 minutes in the clean sheet, while credit should also be given to Brian Murphy and Zimmer who put in brilliant shifts in defensive midfield roles.
Caltabiano has now had a hand in a team-high 16 goals this season, scoring eight himself and providing eight assists. With his eighth helper today, he equaled the record for most assists by a player in a single season, pulling even with Siahpoosh's mark from his freshman campaign (2019).
Catholic will now face a quick turn-around to its second-round match-up with No. 12 Christopher Newport. The Cardinals will do battle with the Captains on their home turf after they squeezed by Rosemont College, 1-0, thanks to a Chris Schram winner in the 82nd minute. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. tomorrow on Captains Field.