Ranked #13, Men’s Soccer Heads to Colorado: Raiders impress against two nationally ranked teams

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Forward Steven DeLeo controls the ball at midfield against #6 Denver. DeLeo scored the game-tying goal with 3 minutes left in regulation.

Lexi Luthringer, Maroon-News Staff

Coming off the most successful season in team history in which they captured the 2017 Patriot League title and made a cinderella NCAA Division 1 Sweet Sixteen run, the Colgate men’s soccer team has continued to make impressive strides early in the 2018 season. The Raiders surpassed Pittsburgh, Albany (OT) and Hofstra to secure an undefeated start to out-of-league play.  These early season wins, coupled with 2017 postseason triumphs, have earned Colgate men’s soccer the rank of #13 in the NCAA D1 Coaches poll, the highest in program history.

The Raiders have more opportunities to prove their abilities before Patriot League play commences. This past weekend, the Raiders embarked for the Rocky Mountains to face the #6 nationally ranked Denver Pioneers and the #20 nationally ranked Air Force Falcons.

Colgate’s junior goalkeeper Jacob Harris noted that their match against Denver marked the first full month of their season. He says the team spent

every day preparing for the challenging match-up, and they were extremely prepared to take on one of the top teams of the country. However, he noted that in order to be successful in this contest, the Raiders planned to treat it as any other game with maximum effort and focus. Harris spoke to their consistent focus of the season.

“[We’ve been] going out there, trying [our] best, and having fun,” Harris said.

Harris knew this match would take a near-perfect performance to win, but said that national rankings were not disheartening the team, and the Raiders believed in themselves as they always do.

The battle between the two undefeated top-20 teams kicked off at 7 p.m. this past Friday. Both teams were unable to score in the first half of play. Around the 53rd minute, Denver’s senior midfielder Kenny Akamatsu slipped a goal past Harris from 25 yards out off of an assist from sophomore midfielder Destan Norman. Just eight minutes later, Colgate senior defender Aram Ouligian fired a shot but Denver’s redshirt senior goalkeeper Nick Gardner came up with a save. Seventeen minutes later, Denver’s redshirt freshman forward Brooks Crawford got off another shot that finished just wide of the net.

The Raiders, still determined to hold on to their undefeated season, answered back just 25 seconds after Denver’s missed opportunity. Harris sent a goal kick past midfield where Colgate first-year midfielder Kian Alberto was able to find senior forward Steven DeLeo off a long ball. DeLeo, beating the goalkeeper to the ball, was able to put the Raiders on the board with a low shot with just under three minutes left in regulation.

Both teams were unable to score in the remaining two and a half minutes of play or the twenty minutes of battled overtime. Ouligian had the best opportunity in overtime, firing a penalty kick to the right corner of the net; however, Gardner was able to stop the attempt with a diving save. The game remained a tie and both teams continue their undefeated campaigns with  3-0-1 records. The Raiders three wins and a tie make this run their best opening season record since 2011. While Denver outshot Colgate 13-10, Colgate recorded more shots on goal 5-4.

Colgate coach Erik Ronning commented on the performance.

“I am extremely proud of our resiliency once again after being down a goal. I thought we played well both offensively and defensively, particularly down the stretch,” he said. “We continue to grow as a team every game, but still have many areas to improve.”

The Raiders remained on the road to battle the #20 Air Force Falcons. Despite controlling much of the second half momentum with 13 shots compared to Air Force’s seven, Colgate suffered a 3-0 loss. Nevertheless, the team’s season is off to a roaring start, and we should be nothing but optimistic about what the rest of the season has in store.

 “It’s early in the season and we know we haven’t actually achieved anything yet, which pushes us even harder,” Coach Ronning said.

Contact Lexi Luthringer at [email protected]