Marist senior goalkeeper Tom Walsh needed to switch things up.
With the RedHawks battling rival Br. Rice in penalty kicks, Walsh’s original plan of attack was not working, but a quick change made all the difference.
Blocking 2 shots late, Walsh lifted Marist to a 5-4 PK win to clinch a 3-2 victory over host Br. Rice on Sept. 7 and reclaim the Pulaski Cup.
“It feels amazing. It’s a great day and such a great rivalry,” Walsh said. “At the beginning, I was looking at their eyes. Obviously that didn’t work, so I looked at their hips. When I saw hips turn, I knew which way to go.”
Last year at Marist, Br. Rice prevailed 2-0, its first Pulaski Cup win since 2015.
For Marist senior Joey Shannon (Central Middle School) and his teammates, exacting some revenge was sweet, especially on Br. Rice’s home field.
“It was really big for us. It wasn’t just the seniors; our underclassmen really wanted to win it for us,” Shannon said. “We were 100 percent into the game, and we wanted to do it for our seniors last year. We didn’t want it to end like that again.”
After a topsy-turvy second half, Walsh delivered with a save in the first round of penalty kicks (5 kicks).
Then, in sudden death after teammate Ethan Fit buried his shot, Walsh slid to his left to scoop up the shot from Br. Rice senior Jordan Harris.
Standing 6’4”, Walsh is a towering presence in net.
“Going in, I feel like I’ve got to block a shot or intimidate the shooter to throw them off their game,” Walsh said. “If I make the save, I make the save. Then I rely on my teammates. They did an amazing job.”
Aidan Gleeson (St. Christina), Jimmy Valek (St. Barnabas), Marc Carreon, Shannon and Fit all converted a PK for the RedHawks.
Valek and freshman Bryson Roberts scored a goal each in regulation.
Down 1-0 following a Jack Finnegan goal for the Crusaders, Valek answered midway through the second half.
In a scrum in front of the net, Valek fell to the ground, but the ball bounced off his leg and in for the equalizer.
“I made a run, and it hit my thigh. I got tripped, fell and hit it again with my thigh,” Valek said. “My calf kind of cramped up after that. The ball went in though, and that’s all that matters. Once we got that first one, the momentum shifted, and we knew we had to keep pushing.”
Roberts put Marist up 2-1 with 10:32 remaining in the game only to see Br. Rice junior Danny Barry sky for a header and get the game-tying goal to force OT.
Although bragging rights were on the line, Br. Rice and Marist teamed up to raise over $3,000 for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s Get Behind the Vest program, which helps purchase protective vests for Chicago police officers.
First responders, active military personnel and veterans were also honored in a halftime ceremony.
“It’s nice because even though we’re rivals, it’s nice to come together because we all have one common goal,” Walsh said. “We want to help others.”
Enduring the ups and downs of the showdown, Marist Coach Sean Maxwell said his team’s fight was impressive.
“You know the adrenaline on both sides is going to be high,” Maxwell said. “It’s a great learning experience early in the season to see guys play in a close game like that and to come back. It’s good for both programs with all the fans.”
An enthusiastic crowd of several hundred soccer fans watched the game on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
“To put the Pulaski Cup on the line and the fundraising efforts, we want to bring extra attention to the game,” said Br. Rice Coach Matt Prunckle. “The boys play club together and know each other from the neighborhood. It’s a great event.”
Walsh and fellow senior John Kennedy had a save each in regulation.
Sophomore goalkeeper Oscar Cerritos finished with 7 saves for the Crusaders.