As the rain clouds parted during a gloomy, overcast weekend, the College’s men’s soccer team left the Drew University campus (where the game was held due to inclement weather) emerging victorious after a 1-0 win over Arcadia University to kick off the 2006 season.
The Lions, ranked No. 1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) preseason poll, clinched their victory late in Sunday’s battle as Matt Luber tapped one into the net at 89:30, leaving only 30 seconds left in regulation.
The goal came on a well-placed free kick from freshman defenseman Matt Erny. The ball was then redirected by senior defenseman and captain Tim Dudek.
Luber reacted quickly and tapped the ball into the net at a tight angle past the Knights’ freshman goalkeeper Jeff Kratohwill for the game-winning goal.
“(Kratohwill) made a couple of nice saves during the game, so I thought he would’ve had that one, but that’s how the ball bounces, you take it and move on,” head coach George Nazario said.
The big question mark before the season, however, was not the attack but the defensive side of the ball, and yesterday the Lions proved they can hang with a team of Arcadia’s quality.
“The bottom line is at the end of the year, I think Arcadia is a team that could be on top of its conference and possibly win it,” Nazario said.
This bodes well for the Lions’ lofty postseason hopes, as their defense was already playing tough in the beginning of the season against a distinguished opponent.
Nazario’s main concern in the game was the Lions’ untimely fouls.
“We gave away fouls in dangerous areas of the field. If we run a play and a team beats us, that’s something we can live with, but if we keep on fouling that means we’re not playing good defense, because a good defense doesn’t result in fouling,” Nazario said.
Rust will obviously need to be shaken off, but for the time being the defense is getting it done, albeit not without surrendering some opportunities.
“They caught us once or twice on the counterattack, but for the most part it was okay. Most of the chances Arcadia had were on restarts (from fouls),” Nazario said, optimistic about his defense.
Arcadia had a great chance to score on the counterattack with eight minutes remaining in regulation, but the Lions’ defense closed in and forced the break to one side, as junior goalkeeper Matt Kasperavicius cut down the angle and made a spectacular save to keep the game deadlocked at zero.
Kasperavicius, who posted his seventh career shutout Sunday, is also confident about the defensive outlook.
“(I felt we) played well and we will become a solid defensive force,” Kasperavicius said.
Kasperavicius was less positive, however, on the overall performance against Arcadia.
“We played well but not our best. I know the team has the ability to play (a) much better quality of soccer,” the newly crowned third-team All-American said.
On that note, Kasperavicius also made sure to mention that it was early in the season, and as the year dragged on the team would “learn to play with each other” better and continue to improve.
The Lions’ next game is tonight in Lions’ Stadium at 7:30 p.m., when they face off against SUNY-Old Westbury.