Crusaders edge Saints in NSA’s opener

Published 7:21 pm Saturday, September 5, 2009

Taking on a state tournament team and the second-place finisher in the Tidewater Conference from last season, Nansemond-Suffolk fell 3-2 to Bishop Sullivan Catholic to open its boys’ soccer season on Thursday afternoon at NSA.

The close score, and more importantly, how the Saints played through most of the 80 minutes, lead head coach Art Truesdell to plenty of optimism looking at what his squad can do this year.

Parke Babiy scored in the 19th minute to make it 2-1 Bishop Sullivan and Brock Barbeau scored eight minutes into the second half to bring NSA within a goal of the Crusaders again. NSA couldn’t find a tying goal, even though the Saints created plenty of good chances during the final 30 minutes of the match.

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“I was very pleased with our level of play and effort. We made defensive adjustments at half and our second half form was much better,” said Truesdell.

Even early in the match, the Saints had a fair amount of possession, but the Crusaders punished the Saints on quick rushes for each of their three first-half goals.

Bishop Sullivan converted a penalty kick in the sixth minute and made it 2-0 in the 18th minute. Just over 60 seconds later, Chris Sharrett dribbled down the right sideline, cut down the endline and got a cross into the box. Three Bishop Sullivan players were near Babiy on the six-yard line, but Babiy got his head on the pass and scored.

NSA got back to within a goal early in the second half. Starting with a Saints’ throw-in deep down the right sideline, Travis Brothers sent a shot toward goal, but it was deflected. The ball found Jeffrey Ruland just outside the Crusader box and Ruland slipped a pass toward goal for Barbeau. Barbeau had to turn to face goal and was falling backwards as he sent a shot past the Crusader keeper and into the upper right corner of the goal.

The rest of the match was a battle between NSA building more offensive pressure through their midfielders and the Crusader counterattack. Bishop Sullivan’s attack became more likely to get another goal as the Saints went forward more aggressively.

NSA’s best chance for a tying goal was when Stuart Gill, after dribbling down the flank from his left midfield position, took a dipping shot from 20 yards out that hit the crossbar.

NSA keeper Joe Zirpolo turned away a couple great Bishop Sullivan chances late in the game. Zirpolo finished with five saves. NSA had an 8-7 edge in shots on goal.

The Saints (0-1, 0-0) play another non-Tidewater Conference game on Tuesday, visiting Cape Henry for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff.