It took only four games for the men’s soccer team to duplicate season-long landmarks from last year on both sides of the ball, as a promising start to the season continued with 4-0 and 5-0 wins over Gwynedd-Mercy State College and Farmingdale State College, respectively.
On the back of contributions from a variety of sources, both fresh and familiar, the Lions (3-1) have found the back of the net 17 times — an ach
ievement which took 15 games last year — while allowing just one goal in regulation.
A lot of credit for the Lions’ early dominance is owed to the experienced back line, which is forcing turnovers and allowing the team to play its brand of possession soccer to the fullest.
“The team has really come on strong this year and it starts from the back,” senior defender Sean Casey said. “Our keeper and back four have been doing an excellent job of communicating and letting the midfield know which players and gaps to cover on the defensive end. This leads to more turnovers from the opposing squad and allows us to keep possession longer, which minimizes the number of opportunities the opposing team has.”
As good as the back line has been, service from the midfield and clinical finishing up top have resulted in the eye-popping score lines, and no one has been more efficient with their scoring chances than senior forward Kevin Shaw.
Shaw scored the game-winner against Gwynedd-Mercy before netting a hat-trick against Farmingdale, raising his conference-best goal total to seven.
“Right now, Shaw has been unstoppable with seven goals in our first four games. I feel like I can just play the ball in his general direction and it’s likely that it will wind up in the back of the net,” said freshman midfielder Nick Costelloe, who scored twice against Farmingdale.
Shaw’s latest scoring tear is a product of his new position and an offseason of hard work. At the beginning of the year, head coach George Nazario moved him from attacking midfielder, where he scored nine times in 2012, to pure forward, and the seamless transition is already paying dividends four games in for the senior.
“Shaw has always been a great player, but also has continued to improve every year,” Casey said. “As a player, Shaw has always been technically sound, his fitness unquestionable and will to win par to none. I’m sure he will still find ways to improve but I am just excited to have him on the squad for this year.”
Shaw’s contributions aside, the Lions are proving to be packed with talent capable of scoring, including from a strong freshman class of midfielders.
“First off, I would like to say the incoming class of freshmen, along with the new transfers this year, have made a positive impact on the team, on and off the field,” Casey said. “Not only have many of the new players gotten playing time, but all of them have raised the level of play during preseason and our training sessions.”
Costelloe and freshman midfielder Sean Etheridge have combined for five goals and three assists this season, while players like Clayton Flon have been able to get on the field and make an impact as substitutes.
“Costelloe and Etheridge have made a smooth transition to the collegiate level and have been excelling on the field,” Casey said. “This is a testament to the work the freshmen have put in prior to this season, and it definitely has been paying off.”
Freshmen included, the deep roster has been able to find chemistry early in the year through a combination of hard work and leadership.
“After we had a chance to play with the team and learn our teammate’s strengths and weaknesses, we started to click,” Costelloe said. “Also, when the great upperclassmen leaders on our team stepped up and took charge, it was easy for the team to fall into place. The team spends a lot of time together and I think that is another reason why we were able to find chemistry early.”
The non-field players have excelled, too. Goalkeepers senior Aaron Utman, sophomore Maciej Libucha and freshman Jacob Neteruk all spent time in between the sticks for this week’s shutouts, making a combined two saves in the process.
The Lions’ home opener and largest challenge of the young season is 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Sept. 11 when they take on No. 3 Stevens Institute of Technology (3-0). They follow that game up with another home game on Saturday, when they play York (PA) College at the soccer stadium at 1 p.m.