Soccer endures roadblock in Virginia

By Miguel Gonzalez
Sports Editor

The men’s soccer team endured some setbacks this week. The Lions lost 2-1 to Stevens Institute of Technology on Wednesday, Sept. 6, and Lynchburg College, 3-1, on Saturday, Sept. 9. Later on Sunday, Sept. 10, the team rebounded and beat Roanoke College, 2-1.   

In their first home game of the season, the Stevens Ducks prevailed over the Lions in overtime, 2-1.

The Lions offense quickly pressured the Ducks in the early game. Junior midfielder Nick Sample connected off a corner kick and landed the Lions first shot on goal.

Nelan breaks away from the defense.

Ten minutes later, sophomore midfielder Sam Monaco nearly scored off a high header shot. While the Lions missed opportunities, the Ducks capitalized on their first try.

In the 27th minute, Ducks freshman forward Cristiano Hocken sprinted past the Lions defense on the right side and scored off the left corner of the net.

The Lions responded by substituting three players.

Two minutes into the second half, freshman goalkeeper Michael Kayal secured a save off Ducks senior defender Jonas Melendez. In the 64th minute, Kayal kept the Ducks from adding to their lead. Kayal stopped a shot from Hocken and prevented a corner kick attempt. Junior midfielder Nick Sample put the Lions on board when he left-footed his shot to the right corner.

Both teams were locked in a stalemate once the clock hit zero. In overtime, freshman midfielder Ryan Vazquez launched a shot at Ducks junior goalkeeper Aaron Henry. After the play, the Ducks advanced to the Lions net. Hocken scored the Ducks winning goal when his shot deflected off a Lions defender and reached past the goal line.

On Saturday, the team traveled south to Salem, Virginia, to compete in the All Sports Cafe Roanoke Invitational.

In the first game against Lynchburg College, the Lions jumped out to a 1-0 lead before conceding three goals and losing, 3-1.

The Lions offense had a strong start when junior defender Nick Zolofra headed in a goal off a pass from senior captain forward Michael Kassak. The Hornets threatened to scored afterwards but the Lions were able to extinguish their two corner kick attempts.

In the middle of the first half, the Hornets kept pressing the Lions defense. Kayal kept the Lions to their 1-0 lead by grabbing two saves. However, the Hornets broke through and stung the Lions twice in the 33th minute. Hornets senior defender Nate Berning tied the match when he ripped a shot into the right side of the net.

In the following play, Hornets sophomore forward Sherman Mitchell bumped a header shot onto the right side of the Lions net. By halftime, the Hornets were up, 2-1.

The Lions struggled to score in the second half. Hornets junior goalkeeper Dylan McLaurin stopped many Lions scoring opportunities and collected three saves.The situation grew worse in the 87th minute when the Lions were reduced to 10 players because of a red card issue.

The Hornets immediately took advantage and scored their third goal when Mitchell knocked the ball to the left side of the Lions net with an assist from senior forward Fredy Flores.

“Both teams (Lynchburg and Stevens) had a lot of talent and were able to play good soccer,” Kassak said. “They were very athletic and moved the ball well, but we definitely dominated our fair share of the game. We got the early goal but it came down to Lynchburg capitalizing on two of their scoring chances. We had a couple of chances.”

The following day, the Lions played against host Roanoke College and walked out with a 2-1 victory. Both the Maroons and Lions fought hard to score throughout the match.

The Lions struck first when senior midfielder Kevin Nelan rebounded his shot to the right side of the net. It was the first goal of his career.

In the second half, senior midfielder Peter Dresch added insurance by scoring the team’s second goal. With two minutes remaining, the Maroons attempted a last ditch rally. Maroons senior forward Cole Thornton scored on a penalty kick. Afterwards, the Lions were able to drain the clock to zero to secure the 2-1 victory.

The Lions are on the road this Wednesday, Sept. 13, when they compete against Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham. The following Saturday, Sept. 16, the Lions come home to the Soccer Complex for their first conference match of the season against William Paterson University. Kickoff is scheduled at 1 p.m.