Crusaders cruise to win over Hickory Christian
On a warm August afternoon, and playing in only their fourth match of a long season, Grace Christian’s soccer team didn’t seem bothered by the heat or by their opponent. In fact, the Crusaders played like they were in midseason form on their home field against a solid opponent in Hickory Christian Tuesday afternoon.
The Crusaders did not lose a home match last year and continue to defend their home field so far this year, as they beat the Knights 5-0.
Crusader head coach Chris Pratt knows the importantance of home field.
“We are trying to protect that – it’s important to us,” Pratt said.
Pratt’s players seem to have gotten the message as they started strong and were clearly the more aggressive team. The fast tempo of play and the Crusaders’ high pressure resulted in a Grace goal in the third minute of play.
The goal was set up from a free kick into the 18-yard box that resulted in the ball being knocked around. Hickory couldn’t clear the ball and Ricardo Castronedas found the back of the net from an assist by Evan Kannarr. Castronedas had been injured and hadn’t played much this season, but Pratt felt he was healthy enough to start this match.
Grace went up 2-0 in the 13th minute when a hard shot on goal rebounded off Hickory Christian’s keeper and, again when the Knights weren’t able to clear the ball, Zach Boggs scored off Joe Urrutia’s assist.
Even with a 2-0 lead, the Crusaders continued to keep pressure on the Knights with their aggressive attack and well-organized play. Kannarr added to the Crusader lead when he scored in the 38th minute with a diving header in front of Hickory Christian’s goal from a nicely-delivered ball from Salvador Leonidez.
Not entirely satisfied with his team’s play, while at the same time a little surprised with having a three-goal lead, Pratt made a few adjustments at halftime. The Crusaders made it 4-0 less than a minute into the second half. Castronedas scored his second goal, off Isaac Kruger’s assist.
Pratt acknowledged the quick goals to start each half made a difference in the match.
“Getting that first goal in the first three minutes was huge. Anytime you can score early it takes something out of the other team,” he said.
With the match well in hand, play settled into a back and forth struggle. Hickory Christian made some good shots on goal, but could not convert a shot into a goal.
Scoring was rounded out in the 59 minute when Nathan Holt converted a ball, delivered across the face of the goal, into a goal. Kruger got his second assist of the match.
The Crusaders (2-1-1) travel to play in the Ravenscroft Invitational starting Thursday. Grace Christian will face another strong program, Charlotte Latin School, in the first round at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.