For Second Straight Year, Men’s Soccer Wins PL



After winning the Patriot League last season, the Colgate men’s soccer team came into this season with a simple goal: defend the title. Problem is, that goal is much easier said than done. As the Raiders weaved their way through the Patriot League schedule, they engaged in battle after battle with teams hungry to take down the champs. There were highs, like the back-to-back-to-back shutouts of Army, Lafayette and Bucknell, and lows, like the tie with Navy. Yet in the end the Raiders emerged champions once again with a 2-1 victory over Holy Cross in the Patriot League Championship.

Colgate’s first game in the Patriot League Tournament came against the Lafayette Leopards in the semifinals. For the past few years, these teams have developed a fierce rivalry, as they just can’t seem to avoid each other in the tournament. Both teams bring the best out of each other, and Lafayette seemed to do that for the Raiders on this day.

From the opening whistle it was evident that Colgate was not going to let the Leopards get between them and their title.

“Entering the weekend we were really clicking as a team. Our two previous league wins really boosted our confidence… and got us fired up to play Lafayette,” junior midfielder Alex Weekes said.

The Raiders had great opportunities to score just a few minutes into the game, as Weekes first rocketed a shot off the crossbar and then sophomore forward Steven Miller sent a header just high. But the Raiders didn’t let their near misses break their confidence and their time came 17 minutes into the affair.

Sophomore midfielder Jeff Leach sent a corner kick right in front of the net, and senior forward Matt Leach was there to complete the connection, heading the ball into the ground before the goal line and then just ahead of the outstretched arms of Lafayette keeper Philip Nelson. The elder Leach then ran to his fan section on the side of the field nearest Andy Kerr Stadium, running alongside an elevated fence that separates players and fans to give the denizens high-fives. However, the raised fence separating the fans and Leach gave way, and a group of around 20 fans fell onto the field on top of Leach. Thankfully, only one fan was hurt with a minor injury.

Colgate had to work hard to preserve its 1-0 lead going into the half, as Lafayette’s leading scorer and senior forward B.J. Glenn had good looks at net, but the Colgate defense was there each time.

When the teams emerged to start the second half, it was obvious that Lafayette was going to put all it had into scoring the equalizer. Except no matter how hard the Leopards tried, it seemed that Colgate was the team that had all the chances. The Leopards would attempt to push the ball upfield, but the Raiders would then possess the ball and send it up to Miller, who had eight shots on the day to test Nelson. This pattern continued for a while with Miller narrowly missing the goal on numerous occasions, but he finally cashed in at 16:42 of the second half.

Senior defenseman Daniel Kerley crossed the ball from the right corner of the 18-yard box, and three Colgate players let the ball roll to Stephen Miller, who was not marked. Miller then immediately shot the ball past Nelson and calmly placed it into the far side of the net. The goal represented the first point of the year for senior Daniel Kerley, which is nice recognition for a player who had quietly gotten his job done all year.

“Kerley has been one of our most solid defenders all year. He stood out as a team leader by stepping up and contributing to the offense,” Weekes said.

Lafayette pushed the pace even more at the end of the game, but Colgate’s defense, which leads the Patriot League with a 0.66 goals against average, preserved the shutout.

Following Colgate’s game, the #2 and #3 seeds met on Van Doren Field, with Holy Cross defeating American 1-1 (5-3 in penalty kicks). This set up a showdown between the Crusaders and the Raiders, as Colgate looked to avenge its only Patriot League loss of the season.

“Because of that loss, we were gunning for Holy Cross from the start,” Weekes said.

The championship took place on a dreary Sunday afternoon with temperatures in the low 30’s. The previous night’s torrential rain had turned Van Doren Field from a soccer pitch into more of a mud bowl. Furthermore, pebble-sized hail, stiff winds and flurries prevailed at times throughout the game. These conditions certainly don’t sound ideal, but they ended up helping the Raiders in a big way in just the sixth minute of the contest. Matt Leach had brought the ball up on the right side of the field and sent a great ball into the middle that found Alex Weekes alone in front of the net. Weekes has been on fire lately and on this play he got the kind of break that comes with such a streak. Weekes mishit the ball, and sent a slow bouncer towards the goal. Holy Cross goalie Thomas Boothe hit the turf to stop the ball with his chest, but because the field was in such bad shape the ball took a funny hop right over Boothe, slowly rolling into the net. Regardless of how it happened, a goal’s a goal, and Colgate found itself up 1-0.

A big play in the game came just a few minutes after Colgate took the lead. Holy Cross had been pressing for the equalizer and had a corner kick for their efforts. The ball found Andreas Andrews in the box, and he fired a header that appeared destined for goal. Just when everyone in attendance thought the game was tied, junior Chris Ross stuck his foot out and saved the day for the Raiders. Later in the half, senior Holy Cross defenseman Jerry Dickinson headed the ball towards the net, and it skidded across the goal line, but sophomore defenseman John Zaback cleared the ball away.

Ross and Zaback’s saves kept the game scoreless, but Holy Cross’ endless pressure finally showed up on the scoreboard with just seven minutes to go in the half. The ball was right in front of the Colgate goal and players from both teams were scrambling to get a foot on the ball. Dickinson finally got control and fired a shot that Colgate keeper David Cappuccio saved. The rebound, however, came right back to Dickinson, who promptly tied the game at one, and that’s where the scored stayed heading into halftime

“At halftime we realized we couldn’t get in a shell,” Weekes said, “We needed to come out and play another 45 minutes. That really got us pumped up to win the championship.”

In the beginning of the second half, the pace of the game stayed very strong, and both teams had dangerous runs but no great scoring opportunities. Finally, 24 minutes in, Holy Cross nearly took the lead. Andrews got another great look inside the box, but Colgate defender Paul Visgilio got there just in the nick of time, blocking the shot and keeping the game tied.

With a little under thirteen minutes left Colgate was awarded a free kick just beyond Holy Cross’ box. Jeff Leach lofted a ball right towards the mouth of Holy Cross’ goal, and Weekes placed a perfect header into the net, giving Colgate the huge late goal they had been looking for.

The entire game had been intense, but after this goal things just got crazy. Holy Cross threw everything it had into its offense, frantically trying to get the ball behind Cappuccio. To their credit, the Crusaders kept creating more opportunities for themselves, but each time Colgate’s defense stood up strong. Finally at the end of the contest, Boothe came charging from his own goal to try and help his team tie the score, but it was not to be as Colgate held on for a 2-1 victory.

Alex Weekes was awarded MVP of the tournament, and senior defenseman Glenn Volk, David Cappuccio and Matt Leach were named to the All-Tournament Team.

“It means a great deal to me to be recognized as Tournament MVP, but I couldn’t have scored either of the goals without the help of my teammates,” Weekes said.

As a reward for winning the Patriot League, the Raiders received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Raiders will travel to Boston College for the first round today at 5 p.m. If they beat B.C., they will go to Dartmouth for the second round on Tuesday, November 25.