Raider Men’s Soccer Can’t Close The Door On Opponents

It has been a tough – and busy – stretch for the Raider men’s soccer team, as the squad has played four games in eight days. Even though the Colgate men’s soccer team saw its five-game unbeaten streak snapped last week, the Raiders showed that they can compete with some of the best teams in the region.

In four games, the Raiders went a disappointing 1-3; however, all four of those games were decided by one goal, and two games even went to overtime.

Despite the tough stretch, head coach Eric Ronning was confident that his team would step up with the added pressure.

The Raiders traveled to Vermont last Wednesday to take on the Catamounts, who had been ranked as high as 19th in the nation earlier in this season. The Raiders went into the game looking for an upset, and they almost pulled one off.

Although the men fell behind early in the second half, the Raiders fought back and scored the equalizer when senior co-captain Sean O’Sullivan scored his first goal of the season off of an assist from junior Charlie Lambropoulos.

The Raiders almost won the game in regulation after a great opportunity from sophomore Eric Anton; however, the game would have to be decided in overtime. In the extra session, the Catamounts capitalized on a corner kick and sent the Raiders to a heartbreaking loss.

“I really think we should have won; we just got really unlucky,” O’Sullivan said. “We played really well, and I just hope we can build on this.”

Ronning shared the same sentiments.

“It was a tough loss, but I am really happy with how hard our team played,” he said. “We went toe to toe with a top-25 team and I am just happy that we can compete with the best. This will really help us get ready for our Patriot League schedule.”

The Raiders’ record fell to 3-1-2 on the year, but the team knew that it had to regroup for another tough test two days later at home against Buffalo, a team ranked third in New York State.

Buffalo came in with the best record in Division-I at 7-0, but the Raiders were determined to hand the Bulls their first loss. After senior Bryant Meckley scored his first goal of the season to give Colgate the lead, it looked like the Raiders would do just that.

The Raiders then retreated into defensive for the second half, but couldn’t hold down the powerful Buffalo offense. The Bills were awarded a penalty kick with 15 minutes to play after a Raider handball, and the kick was converted to tie the game.

Things quickly got worse for the Raiders, however, as Buffalo came right back with five minutes to play to score a heartbreaking game-winner, accounting for the final score of 2-1. The Raiders fell to 3-2-2 on the season, while Buffalo kept its unblemished record intact at 8-0.

“We played another excellent game and if it was not for a couple of unlucky bounces, this was our game,” Ronning said. “I feel bad for my players, who played their hearts out, but this is soccer and these things happen. Even with the result, we played really well and I am very satisfied with our level of play.”

After two very tough losses, the Raiders managed to regroup and came away with a hard-fought 1-0 overtime victory at Siena.

Ronning labeled the game “very ugly”, but in overtime the Raiders came away looking fine thanks to a great header from Anton, who took a pass from junior Kevin Toomey and found the net. The goal was Anton’s second of the year.

“After the two tough losses we had before this game, I am very pleased with the character the team showed,” Ronning said. “We competed very well and we came away with a great victory. Could we have won all three games this week? I definitely think so, but that did not happen. We cannot let past results affect us. I am proud of how my players came out against Siena and got the victory.”

On Wednesday night against Niagara, the team’s busy schedule finally seemed to catch up with the Raiders. The team played a very sloppy first half against the Purple Eagles, but luckily for the Raiders, the visitors did likewise, and the game went into intermission scoreless.

In the second half, Anton gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead at the 51:57 mark off a deft service from Lambropoulos. But as in the Buffalo game, the Raiders simply couldn’t finish.

After allowing the first goal, Niagara went on the offensive and the Raiders could not keep up. In the game’s waning minutes, the Raider players looked very tired, and as a result the Purple Eagles climbed back into the game. In the 79th minute, Niagara’s Eric Brodfuehrer collected a beautiful back heel pass from Kwame Oduro and walked in all alone on senior Raider goalie Doug Litvack, who had no chance to stop Brodfuehrer’s point-blank attempt.

Then, with the Raiders thinking about overtime, Oduro again forced the issue, as he received a pass just outside the penalty box and was taken down by a Raider defender. With 1:04 left on the clock, Niagara’s Rafael Venturini curled the subsequent free kick over the Raider wall and into the vacated left side of the net, sending the Purple Eagles to their first-ever victory in 10 games against the Raiders.

The Raiders now have to regroup before the team’s Patriot League opener this weekend at Lafayette. After facing the Leopards tomorrow, the team will have a full week off to rest before beginning a three-game homestand next weekend.