Men’s soccer beats Conn. College 3-1

Men’s soccer team (1-0-0) started its season on a high note with a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Connecticut College (0-1-0), highlighted by a two-goal effort from striker Alex Blake ’03.

The Ephs looked sluggish in the early going, allowing Connecticut College’s Erik Brzozowski to stake the Camels to a 1-0 lead on a corner kick only three minutes into the contest.

“We just weren’t as alert as we should have been,” tri-captain defender Marc Williams ’02 said. “We tend to play an offensive game out of the gate, we try to put a goal up on the board and put the pressure on the opposite team. It was a defensive lapse.”

The early deficit, however, did not alarm the veteran members of the squad. “At no point in the game was I worried,” Williams added. “After that they probably had only one good scoring opportunity in the entire game. Particularly the older guys on the team, we were definitely not worried at any point, we kept our composure.”

With the surprising one-goal lead, Connecticut College proceeded to play a defensive brand of soccer, which kept the Ephs in check until the 37th minute of play when Josef Powell ’02 netted a 20-yard shot into the lower right hand corner past Sean LaBrie, the Camel goalkeeper.

The score remained tied until the 58th minute when Blake scored the first of his two goals on a five-yard header. Blake would strike again in the 77th minute on a six-yard header sent in by Walker Waugh ’02 and Powell to send the Ephmen to a 3-1 lead.

Despite the convincing victory, the Eph attack was far from perfect as the team let many scoring opportunities go by. The Ephmen had 40 shots – 13 on goal – and controlled the pace of play almost entirely; the Camels, by contrast, had only four shots on goal.

Given the dominance of the Eph attack, it may seem that the margin of victory should have been wider, but members of the team cited the job that LaBrie did in net for the Camels as the only reason the score stayed respectably close.

“Give their keeper some credit, he had a very big game,” Powell said. “He made a number of very nice saves – he robbed many of our guys like Blake, or Ted [Giannacopoulos ’02] or myself.”

In last year’s season opener, likewise against Connecticut College, the Ephs managed a 6-0 victory.

Expectations are high for the Ephs as the 2001 season gets underway. The optimism comes not only from the Ephs’ status as the defending NESCAC regular season champions but also from a strong 4-2-0 showing in its matches against European competition – the team dropped its first two matches and won its final four – during the preseason.

Even more impressive, however, was the team’s number four ranking in the first regular season NSCAA/Adidas Men’s Division III poll.

The team’s strength lies in its offensive firepower. Leading the way is Blake, an all-American last year and the 2000 season’s NESCAC Player of the Year. Blake also led the conference in scoring last year with 20 goals and seven assists (47 points).

Complementing Blake up front is fellow all-American Giannacopoulos, who, along with Richard Bode ’02 and Williams, serves as team tri-captain.

Giannacopoulos is one of the team’s primary playmakers, supplying a team high 15 assists last year. Giannacopoulos finished fifth in the NESCAC conference in scoring last year with 25 points.

Midfielder Powell, also all-American last year, finished second in scoring last year with 28 points. In Blake, Giannacopoulos and Powell, the Ephs have three of the NESCAC conference’s five leading scorers from the 2000 season.

With such an explosive trio on the offensive end, the team’s defense, young and inexperienced, is the only real question mark for the team. From last year’s starting line, three members are gone and only Williams, a three-year starter, remains.

Along with Williams in the backfield are Andreas Boye ’04, Dylan Smith ’03, Matt Watson ’04 and Ryan Olsen ’04, though Russo has indicated that the starting lineup may undergo some revision as the season progresses.

Given their inexperience in the back, the Ephs have devised a new five-man defensive formation, one that bolsters both the offensive and defensive play. The wing defenders are now freer to make long, penetrating runs up the flanks to assist the offense, which should add to the general fluidity of the team’s game.

“We are playing with five backs, which gives us an extra player in the back,” Williams explained. “We have [Bode] right in front of the back line, playing a more defensive role. I don’t think our defense is going to be a problem. If we stay organized we’ll be fine.”

The team will rely on Robbie Kirsher ’03 in net, who appeared, and struggled, in only five games last season – Kirsher tallied seven saves against five goals in 216 minutes as Ryan Spicer ’01’s backup. It should be noted, however, that Russo would often insert Kirsher into contests when the starting defensive line had been removed from the game.

Despite Kirsher’s struggles last season, Russo expressed confidence in his keeper. “Robbie is technically sound and has played at a very high club level in a lot of national tournaments before arriving at Williams,” he said. “He just needs to get in goal and feel comfortable in the college setting.”

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