Christendom tops LFCC

By Jim Laise –

FRONT ROYAL – At the beginning of the season, Christendom College forward James Miller was trying to clobber the ball, in the words of his coach, rather than push it.

He corrected that in a big way Thursday night as his Crusaders, representing a four-year school, topped Lord Fairfax Community College 3-1 in the Lions’ final match of the season.

This was the second competition in as many days for Christendom, which closes its campaign Friday at home against Patrick Henry.

This contest took place at the Warren County Health and Human Services Athletic Complex, LFCC’s home pitch.

“He’s been working on receiving the ball and moving it to the near post, rather than pound it outside,” said Christendom coach Jake Gutierrez of his freshman, after the Rappahannock County resident knocked in two goals in the Crusaders’ success.

“So many times earlier in the season, he would try to pound the ball. But he’s worked hard at being more accurate,” said Gutierrez.

“It’s something I’ve taken seriously,” Miller said. “I’ve worked on my passing in practice and in four-against-fours in practice.”

Miller’s goals came in the 27th minute of the first half to give his team an early 1-0 lead and, again, in the 36th minute of the second half to set the final score.

In between, offensive minded James Salmon provided the difference maker for a 2-1 advantage in the 30th minute of the second half.

Daniel Stillwell-Arguello gave Lord Fairfax its only goal of the day. His shot — a header — came in the 42nd minute of the first half.

Salmon, who scored his 18th goal of the season, knocked in what officials determined was a direct shot which sent his team ahead 2-1. It came with some controversy.

Lord Fairfax coach Dave Noyes, finishing his first season at LFCC, said he thought that officials had called Salmon’s kick an “indirect shot,” meaning he could not put points on the board by himself, but had to assist a teammate.

Even so, the coach refused to blame the loss on the call.

“I told my players after the game, ‘Hey, that’s soccer. No matter what the call was the goal went in, and in soccer, that’s what matters. You have to defend,'” Noyes said.

In all, Lord Fairfax produced nine shots on goal compared to 12 for Christendom.

Miller’s goals led all scorers, naturally, but teammate Salmon recorded five shots on goal along with his point.

LFCC’s Eric Hoyt of Berryville had three shots on goal to pace his team. Woodstock’s John Trelawny added a pair of attempts.

The road for Miller has been one fraught with twists and turns as he advanced from playing on a Fairfax travel squad from ages 10-15, through four high schools and onto the Christendom team as a rookie.

He even took several courses at Lord Fairfax in the fall on 2013 before transferring to the Front Royal college. Ironically, he and Lord Fairfax goalkeeper J.P. Alger attend the same youth group at St. John’s Catholic in town.

“I think as much as anything playing at this level has helped my overall game,” Miller said. “I played on the club team from the time I was 10 and then I went to four private schools in high school. It was fun, but the competition is nowhere close to this. Just by playing, I think I got better.”

Miller’s first goal came on a break-away against LFCC when he scored on his own. His second, which gave Christendom the two-goal advantage, came off an assist from fellow-forward Joey Kuplack.

While Miller was congratulated by his teammates, he was quick to credit the homestanding Lions.

“This is the second time we’ve played them, we won 6-2 (on Sept. 23) and they’ve definitely improved since then. They gave us a tough game and (Alger) was really tough, especially in the first half,” Miller said.

“You can really tell the difference between last year and this year. Their coach has certainly worked on some combinations and, technically, they’re stronger than they were a year ago,” said Gutierrez.

“That means a lot coming from him. They’re well-coached, and it means a lot,” said Lord Fairfax’s Noyes.

Not only was the Lord Fairfax coach pleased with the assertiveness with which his team played, but also the “buzz” the men’s team is creating.

“While there are numerous things on the pitch we’ve improved in, the thing I think I’m happiest with is how the team has pulled together,” Noyes said. “They’re playing as a team and I think they’re creating some buzz around the campus, in the media, and the area. It’s a good start.”

Lord Fairfax competes in the National Intramural-Recreation Association (NIRSA) Region I. As such, the two-year school contends against four-year institutions like Christendom, but also against top club teams from colleges and universities in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area and elsewhere.

For instance, they have taken on the likes of clubs from American University, University of Maryland, George Mason, Towson and the Naval Academy.

“It’s been a learning experience and something I think our team has appreciated as we’ve gotten going this year,” Noyes said. “After all, we’re trying to produce good young men. We aren’t playing World Cup. In the end, the objective is to improve these guys as adults, not just soccer players.”

The coach, specifically, was pleased with keeper Alger, a Front Royal resident, who made a match-high six saves.

“He hasn’t played keeper all year. He was a defender through most of the season,” Noyes said. “But against Navy last week, I asked if anyone wanted to play in goal. He asked to play it, and has done a great job, especially since he hasn’t had a lot of experience with it,”

A sophomore, Alger plans to transfer to a four-year school in order to complete his credits for a nursing degree. He’d like to play on a club team at his next destination.

“It has been a great experience, especially after playing last year compared to this year,” said Alger. “It’s like night and day, where we are.”

Christendom keeper Richard Blank, a freshman, made four saves.

The Crusaders participate in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA).