With a big win over Holy Cross and a little bit of luck, the Colgate men’s soccer team earned the final playoff spot in the Patriot League Tournament last weekend, marking the first time the Raiders have played in the tournament since 1999.
After two consecutive weeks of tough away losses to Patriot League foes American and Lehigh, the Raiders proved that the third time could be the charm with a big win in Worcester.
The game against the Crusaders proved difficult at first because of the school’s small field, but the competition was still intense.
The Raiders managed to take control of the game in the second half, and with less than 10 minutes left in the game, junior forward Devin Deane scored his sixth goal of the year off an assist by junior midfielder Charlie Lambropoulos. After that goal, the Raiders held off Holy Cross down the stretch to head home with a win.
“The game had a tough start because of the field conditions, but it was competitive all game long,” Ronning said. “The victory came down to us finishing one set piece and it was a great header by Deane. I am happy about the win, but I am most happy for the guys who truly deserved to qualify for the tournament.”
Despite the Raiders’ win, they still had to wait and see if they would qualify for the Patriot League Tournament. With the win, Colgate needed Bucknell to tie or lose to Navy for the Raiders to make the postseason. The Bison held a 2-0 halftime lead at the half, but the team gave up that lead in the final minutes of the second half, ending its game with Navy in a tie and allowing the Raiders to sneak in as the fourth seed.
Junior goalie Doug Litvack earned his third Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week award after posting his sixth shutout of the season in arguably the team’s biggest regular season game.
Ronning is glad that Litvack received this award, but he also wished to credit the entire back line along with the team as a whole for how well they have played defensively this season. The team has posted seven shutouts so far this year, and it has shown that it can keep opposing teams off the scoreboard while finding ways to put the ball in the net – a strategy that will suit them well come postseason time.
Individually, both Deane and sophomore Eric Anton earned second team All-Patriot League honors. These two have been a formidable attacking duo all season long, and they will be very important to Colgate’s success in this weekend’s tournament.
Even so, the team must be ready for their rematch with American tonight. The Raiders previously lost weeks ago to the Eagles, 3-1 in Washington, DC, but they were able to get a feel for what it is like to play at American.
The Raiders may have been defeated, but Colgate did not play to its potential and also was was forced to play a man down after Deane was handed a red card. Nonetheless, this team is ready to face the challenge, and Ronning is making sure the team is mentally prepared for this weekend.
“It’s playoff time and there will definitely be a different mentality,” Ronning said. “Both teams will be playing with a little more urgency and I feel that playing at American already will help us out. We may have lost two weeks ago, but that does not change the way that we are preparing for the game.”
The Raiders have used their excellent defense throughout this year to earn many victories and a berth in the Patriot League Tournament. The team will have to work together if it wants to beat American, a team the Raiders have never defeated in league play.