In a week defined by spectacular goals and acute heartbreak, the men’s soccer team generated plenty of drama but few goals to slip two games below .500 for the first time this season.
The snake-bit Lions (4-6) came from behind to beat Richard Stockton College on the strength of a brace from senior midfielder Kevin Shaw, but were on the wrong end of late-game heroics in double overtime against Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham and in overtime at Montclair State.
Goals have come at a premium for the Lions, who came into last week in the midst of a 236-minute goalless streak and have scored just three times in their last five games.
“Scoring has been our downfall so far,” junior midfielder Sean Casey said. “It’s not that we aren’t creating enough chances it’s just that we haven’t been putting them away. I think you will see that change in the next few games we play.”
Converting opportunities was no issue in the team’s massive 2-1 win over Richard Stockton. The game opened up with Ospreys forward Chris Katona scoring an audacious front-footed chip from 15 yards out in the 49th minute.
From then on it was the Kevin Shaw show, as Shaw found the back of the net twice in four minutes to improve his season total to a career-high six goals and give the Lions a much-needed W.
“That was huge for our team’s morale and it really gave us confidence moving forward throughout the season,” Casey said. “(To) have someone like Shaw who can make a scoring opportunity out of nothing is something we need as a team, and I can’t express how Shaw is key to making our team play to their full potential.”
Richard Stockton took the lead with a goal, but the Lions countered. Shaw outran his marker, chested the ball down and slotted it home to the far post for the equalizer, four minutes before rounding off the scoring by getting on the end of a free kick from senior defender Vince McEnroe.
McEnroe put a pass on the ground to Shaw, who was left alone 30 yards out from goal, and the Lions’ top scorer blasted the ball into the upper 90 for a highlight reel finish and an important game winner.
“The Stockton game was huge in this past stretch of games,” Casey said. “It showed that we could come back and win when we are down. That was a big morale booster for the season.”
Since weather had delayed the game against Richard Stockton to a day before a match versus FDU-Florham, head coach George Nazario played a B-team against the Devils for most of regulation, and the strategy worked even if the Lions lost.
The Lions conceded a goal in the last minute of double overtime to continue a bizarre winless streak in overtime games, which dates back to October 2010.
Following a corner for the Devils, McCartney took the ball from deep within the Lions’ half, dribbled it 70 yards down the field and rounded the goalkeeper before calmly sliding it into the net for his first goal of the season.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Shaw said. “That came off of their corner — it was deflected — (McCartney) made a great run and he was able to put it in, I was glad he was able to do that.”
The Lions continued to dominate and were unlucky not to be up a man when freshman forward Greg Perri appeared to have his shirt tugged on a breakaway, but the Devils equalized in the 26th minute and managed to bend but not break for the rest of the game.
The unfortunate combination of a positive performance and bad result would re-appear for the team’s loss at Montclair State, when Red Hawks junior Dan Mendoza scored a goal from 22 yards out less than 90 seconds into overtime to hand the Lions another harsh result and heartbreaking loss
Improvement is expected, though, and with seven games left in the season, the Lions have ample time to become a stronger unit and eventually earn a playoff berth.
“Overall, we are improving in regards to the chemistry of the team and I feel that is going to be key come the end of the season,” Casey said.