Following a disappointing showing earlier in the week against Keene State (5-3-0) in which the team squeaked by with a 4-3 victory, men’s soccer (6-0-0) was back in top form beating host Trinity (3-3-0) by a final score of 4-0 on Saturday.
Leading the way for the Ephs offensively against Trinity were Alex Blake ’03 and Ted Giannacopoulos ’02, both of whom had two goals and one assist.
“That was a very impressive performance,” men’s soccer coach Mike Russo said about the 4-0 victory. “Trinity’s got a very good team, they’re very good on the attack and our defense held up well; I was pleased with the efforts turned in by Dylan [Smith ’03], Andreas [Boye ’04] and Marc Williams [’02] as always.”
Russo continued, “It was parents weekend over there â€“ they had a very big and vocal crowd, but we played very well and we looked sharp. The players knew they hadn’t performed well against Keene, and in training they were very sharp and that carried over into the game.
“While we might not have created as many chances as usual, we were able to convert on our scoring opportunities at a higher clip than we have at times earlier in the season.”
The Ephs managed to convert on those early scoring opportunities to the tune of three first-half goals. In the 17th minute, Blake made it a 1-0 game on an 18-yard blast into the upper left-hand corner of the goal after receiving the ball from Giannacopoulos and Josef Powell ’02.
Eight minutes later, Blake scored his second goal by chipping the ball over Bantam goalkeeper Michael Doherty. Assisting again on the play was Powell, who delivered a through ball to Blake.
Giannacopoulos tacked on the Ephs’ third goal in the 28th minute on a five-yard volley off a spectacular base line pass from Walker Waugh ’02.
The score remained 3-0 into the second half, as the Ephs would not strike again until the 60th minute of play.
Making his way around several Trinity defenders, Khari Stephenson ’04 brilliantly broke down the Bantam defense before laying the ball off to Giannacopoulos, who sent the ball into the back of the net to give the Ephs a 4-0 lead. Also assisting on the play was Blake.
Two Williams goalkeepers, Robbie Kirsher ’03 and Scott Faley ’05, combined to hold the Bantams scoreless. The shutout was the Ephs’ third of the season.
What made the Ephs’ victory all the more satisfying was that it came after their decidedly lackadaisical performance against Keene State. Powell managed two goals against Keene State, leading the way for the Ephmen in their 4-3 victory.
“I wasn’t happy; we weren’t sharp,” said Russo. “We’re very talented, there’s no question about that, but we also need to have the right mentality and exhibit more toughness. There was a lack of concentration and a lack of communication; it was a very frustrating game.”
The Ephs found themselves with an early deficit in the 13th minute when Keene State’s Justin Hickman nudged a header past Kirsher on a corner kick sent in by John Harke.
Keene State’s lead did not last long, however, as only three minutes later Powell would connect on the first of his two goals. Powell sent a pass to Blake who fooled his defender, pushed the ball down the right flank and sent a chip back to Powell, who sent the ball to the back of the net on a diving header.
Giannacopoulos would give the Ephs the lead in the 29th minute on a beautiful, unassisted 10-yard goal. Keene State defender Jamie DeLong hit a low goal kick that found Giannacopoulos, who proceeded to break down the Owl defense, weaving his way around three defenders in total, before sending a shot into the lower left side netting.
There would be no change in score from that point until the 58th minute. At that point, Blake received a chip from Richard Bode ’02, set himself, and sent a shot into the upper left-hand corner of the goal from about 25 yards out.
On a disappointing day, Russo noted the efforts of Bode as particularly encouraging: “Richard Bode is the guy really setting the tone for us with his sticking and with his defensive play; his work ethic is extremely high, and in many ways he’s the glue that holds the team together â€“ we need more Richard Bodes, not just him.”
Powell went on to score what would ultimately become the deciding goal in the 69th minute. Giannacopoulos sent a chip to the opposite side of the goal and found Powell, who knocked the ball into the net with a side volley.
With a 4-1 lead and his team seemingly in the driver’s seat, Russo made a series of substitutions â€“ including replacing Kirsher with Faley â€“ that would allow the Owls back into the game.
In the 75th minute, Hickman sent a diving header off a set piece into the left netting to make the score 4-2 in favor of the Ephs. Then, with only 15 seconds remaining in the contest, Owl forward Jason Lombardo pushed a shot into the goal after a scramble in front of the net to pull Keene State to within one goal.
Though there wasn’t enough time left for the Owls to tie the game up, the Ephs were displeased with the 4-3 final score.
“We did make substitutions, but we depend on those guys who go in to get the job done,” Russo said. “Those guys train with us, and I have faith in them when we put them in that they’re not going to allow any goals, and the effort they turned in was very frustrating to see. That said, in the game against Trinity we made the same substitutions we’d made against Keene and the guys showed themselves more than capable.”
The Ephs will look to extend their regular season unbeaten streak to 45 games, the team is 43-0-1 over their last 44 contests, as they return home to square off against Springfield on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 4:15 p.m.
“Springfield’s very similar to Keene State,” Russo said. “They’re pesky and quick and fit â€“ they’ll come at us. It’s really just a question of who comes out with more intensity, and we like to think that we’re very intense in all our games, but that we are particularly intense in games at home.
“We just have to play our brand of soccer and see if we can’t get ourselves an early lead â€“ nothing takes the wind out of a team’s sails like an early goal. We’ll try and do what we always do: get good scoring opportunities early on, impose our style and rhythm early, keep the ball in their half, put the pressure on and put one in the net.”