Men’s Soccer Wins PL Regular Season Title

Men's Soccer Wins PL Regular Season Title

Mitch Waxman

After last year’s Patriot League Title every team in the league had one goal: dethrone the defending champion Colgate Raiders. Each league game Colgate had this year turned out to be a battle. Yet last Saturday the Raiders achieved the first of their many goals this season, clinching the Patriot League regular season title with a 2-0 win over Lehigh, allowing Colgate the opportunity to host the league playoffs.

From the outset, both teams knew what was at stake for the Raiders, and Lehigh seemed to relish the spoiler role, as its first half play was very strong.

“We knew going into the game what was on the line, which motivated us to go in and take care of business,” second-team All-Patriot League defender Daniel Kerley said.

About 25 minutes in, Colgate broke the string of back and forth play momentarily, as they had two great scoring opportunities in less than five minutes. First, junior Alex Weekes narrowly missed the near post with his attempt, and moments later sophomore Jeff Leach had an open look at the onion bag but Lehigh’s Neal Melchionni was there for the block. After weathering Colgate’s first half storm (and while weathering the actual storm that was coming down around them), Lehigh nearly took a 1-0 lead right before the half. After a beautiful free kick that placed the ball in a crowd in front of goal, Lehigh senior Adam Welch got a great look at the net, only to see Colgate keeper David Cappuccio make the kind of big save that he has been making all year.

“Dave’s been awesome all season. As a defender, knowing you have such a great keeper is a great,” Kerley said.

The 1-0 advantage would have given the underdog Mountain Hawks a huge lift, but it was not to be.

After the halftime break, Colgate seemed determined to ignore the weather, get the job done and take home the regular season crown. The Raiders came out hot, pressuring Lehigh deep in their defensive zone. The Mountain Hawks were up to the task for the first fifteen minutes, but then the Alex Weekes show began. At 17:58 of the second half senior Jimmy Stephens put a shot on net, which created a juicy rebound. Fortunately for the Raiders the ball bounced right to Weekes, who knew exactly where to put it to give Colgate a one-goal advantage.

Under certain coaches, a one-goal lead in the second half would cause a team to lay back and try to milk the clock, but not under Erik Ronning. A little over ten minutes later the Raiders mounted another charge, and Weekes was there to finish it again. This time Jeff Leach gathered the ball on the Colgate side of the field and brought it down the pitch towards Lehigh’s net. Weekes came open at just the right time and Leach hit him with a perfect pass that the junior midfielder deflected off the near post and then into the back of the goal.

“Alex is very dynamic and has stepped up when we’ve needed him all year,” Kerley said.

The 2-0 lead would prove to be more than enough, as Cappuccio recorded yet another shutout, furthering extending his Colgate record.

Colgate, which is hosting the Tournament for the first time since 1997, is taking on fourth seed Lafayette today at 4 p.m.

“Lafayette will bring intensity. It is always a battle with them. We always match up against them, so its definitely a heated rivalry,” Kerley said. “If we shut down their scoring threats and go up early it will be to our advantage.”

Before the tournament starts however, it should be noted that Cappuccio was just named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year at a banquet at Colgate.

The other game features the #2 seed American Eagles playing the #3 seed Holy Cross at 7 p.m. The winners of the two semifinal games play Sunday at 1 p.m. on Van Doren Field.

“Our fans have been excellent all year, no team wants to come play us because of them,” Kerley said.