Head Coach Andy Fleming with his daughter, Devin, at the 3rd Annual Down Syndrome Awareness Classic
April 30, 2014
CINCINNATI - Powered by a 90th minute Garrett Halfhill (Virginia Beach, Va./Landstown) finish, Xavier secured a hard fought 1-1 draw with Akron in the annual Down Syndrome Awareness Classic on Saturday night at the Xavier Soccer Complex.
With the tie Xavier finishes with a 3-0-2 record during the spring campaign, highlighted by just two goals allowed and a 363 minute shutout streak prior to Akron's goal.
"First and foremost tonight was a great event," said head coach Andy Fleming. "Great game, strong attendance and very well run. It's really become a neat event and a staple to our spring. I'd like to thank our athletic department, various media outlets, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati and Kings Hammer Soccer Club for their efforts. We raised over $7000 and without a question raised awareness and strengthened the bond between our team, the community and children with Downs in our city."
Despite not having much possession in the first 15 minutes, XU gradually developed some rhythm and had two point blank chances from inside the six yard box in the first half, one of which was an open net. Both teams headed into the locker room tied 0-0.
In the second stanza both teams remained even with Xavier getting more command of the game and generating more and better chances, despite Akron's long stretches of possession. A John McDermott (Brookfield, Wis./Marquette University HS) breakaway midway thru the second half was stopped by Akron's keeper, keeping the game at a deadlock. Akron later had a goal disallowed due to an offsides call.
The Zips got on the board in the 78th minute when a Xavier giveaway led to a 30 yard first-time blast by Richmond Laryea. The goal was highlight real material and was the first allowed by Xavier in nearly four games worth of minutes.
With four players out injured, a tired Xavier team stayed in the game and made one final rush in the last minute. Gino De Paoli (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus) launched a long cross to the far post where Owen Steinwall (Scottsdale, Ariz./Notre Dame Prep) headed it back across to Halfhill who headed in the equalizer with just 47 seconds left, sending the crowd of 1,723 into a frenzy. It was Halfhill's third goal of the spring. Xavier then handled a final Akron corner kick to secure the tie.
"I have mixed feelings about the game as we were very organized and stuck to our game plan, while being very adaptive to lineups since we had so many players out," said Fleming. "However I thought we missed too many layup chances and should have won the game. I'm proud that we fought hard to salvage a tie but think that this young group needs to realize this was a winnable game and that we left a win out there. Regardless, our goals were to have empty tanks, to make progress and be proud at games end and I think we did so. Kyle (Martin), Owen (Steinwall), Todd (Pratzner) and Garrett (Halfhill) were very strong for us."
In its third year, the game serves as the featured match for the Blue Chip recruiting showcase put on by Kings Hammer and is a fundraiser for Devin's Team and the Cincinnati Buddy walk. Fleming's three-year old daughter Devin served as the games honorary captain and kicked out the first ball.
The 2010 national champs Akron joined Notre Dame, Virginia and Indiana as recent Xavier opponents with national titles to their name. Since 2010, Xavier has accumulated four wins, two losses and six ties against those programs. Xavier opens their 2014 season at Indiana on August 19th.