By Quinn Clifford ‘21

The Brother Rice and St. Rita soccer teams play each other annually for the coveted Markulin Cup. The Markulin Cup game was started to honor the late Chicago soccer coaching legend, Nick Markulin. The great Nick Markulin coached at St. Rita for a season before eventually spending most of his coaching career at Brother Rice.

Nick Markulin coached soccer for 32 years at Brother Rice and won over 450 games in his time here. Unfortunately, Markulin recently passed away on Oct. 25, 2020. Therefore, the 2021 Markulin Cup was a bit more sentimental for Brother Rice.

The Crusaders and Mustangs had a perfect day for the game at Tom Mitchell Field. St. Rita won the Markulin Cup last year, and they also eliminated the Crusaders from the IHSA playoffs last season. As a result, the kicking Crusaders had a bit more incentive to win last Saturday.

Brother Rice came into this game after a tough loss to St. Laurence. The Crusaders struggled to generate any offense all game and only had one shot on goal against the Vikings.

The minimal offense for the Crusaders carried into the first half of the Markulin Cup. The Mustangs maintained most of the possession at the start and struck first. Only nine minutes into the game, St. Rita’s Aidan Breslin scored from deep off an assist from Elias Morris. Breslin’s incredible shot from the 20-yard line narrowly slid by Brother Rice’s goalkeeper Oscar Cerritos’ outstretched hand.

St. Rita had numerous opportunities to score in the first half after the goal, but the Crusader defense, led by Brian Barsch, Lewis Conn and Oscar Cerritos, shut them all down. One of the Crusaders’ only chances to score in the first half was a header from senior Dan Barry 20 minutes into the game. The Mustangs’ goalie Kyler Sumpter had to make an incredible diving save to stop it.

The score at halftime was 1-0 in favor of St. Rita. Coming out of halftime, the Crusaders needed to start getting more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball to generate more scoring opportunities.

Senior striker Justin Hardiek said, “We realized that we really needed to kick it into a different gear if we wanted to get back in the game. Nothing was going to come easy, and we had to start making the most out of our chances.”

Making the most out of their chances is exactly what the Crusaders did to start the second half. On the first play of the half, sophomore Roman Harris stole the ball and beat all St. Rita defenders down the field before eventually rolling one past Sumpter. Harris’s goal was the spark that Brother Rice desperately needed, and it tied the game at 1-1.

For the rest of the second half, the Crusaders controlled most of the possession. They had many opportunities to score in transition but failed to capitalize on any due to tremendous plays on the ball by the Mustang defense led by Brendan Gleeson and Isaac Garza. St. Rita had a very slow half and just tried to hang on to the tie. Neither team found the back of the net, and the score at the end of regulation remained 1-1.

Penalty kicks were needed to settle the Markulin Cup!

Cerritos was in net for Brother Rice and Sumpter for St. Rita. Both the Crusaders and the Mustangs netted four out of the first five penalty kicks. Both goalies each had one save to keep their team in it.

This one still wasn’t settled after five rounds! In the sixth round, both teams missed the net with their kicks. Maybe the seventh round would decide the game…

St. Rita’s player was up first. His kick was high and wide. The Crusaders had a chance to win it in this round. Dan Barry was chosen to kick. The cup was on the line. He shot. HE SCORED!


Barry said, “I was very nervous. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest, but there wasn’t a better feeling than turning around and seeing my teammates running at me going crazy.”

It was only fitting that the Crusaders took home the Markulin Cup this year after Markulin’s recent passing.

Senior captain Brian Barsch said, “It was incredibly important to win the cup for Coach Markulin and to bring the cup back to the program he made so successful.”

The 2021 Markulin Cup was everything we hoped for and more. The Crusaders won the hard-fought match in dramatic penalty kicks. We hope Coach Markulin got to see this one.