Sports

Men’s Soccer Enjoys Positive Stretch of Games

Billy Fitzpatrick ’20

Chief Sports Editor 

The final week of September saw the Holy Cross Men’s Soccer team make program history by topping a ranked opponent and grabbing a point on the road against a Patriot League foe. The Crusaders (2-3-4 overall, 1-0-1 Patriot League) made the short journey northeast and walked away with a 2-1 victory over No. 16 UMass-Lowell (6-3-2 overall, 1-1-0 America East), and four days later traveled to Lafayette (4-3-2 overall, 0-1-1 PL), where the divisional rivals played to a 1-1 draw. Including the win over Navy on September 23, the Lafayette fixture capped a spell of three games in seven days, and Holy Cross will be happy to earn a positive result in each match.

UMass-Lowell has become a national powerhouse in soccer since transitioning from Division II to Division I earlier this decade. In 2016, the final year of the River Hawks’ transition to the top level of NCAA athletics, they ranked as high as No. 13 in the country, but were ineligible to compete in postseason play. Last year, its first full season at the Division I level, UMass-Lowell finished second in the conference and lost in the America East championship game in double overtime, narrowly missing out on a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

If the Crusaders were intimidated at all by their opponents’ strong reputation, they didn’t show any signs of it. The first 45 minutes were goalless as Holy Cross senior goalie Henry Stutz saved two River Hawk attempts in the first half. However, with the rain pouring down making the home turf even slicker than usual, the home favorites always looked eager to score and made a breakthrough after 53 minutes. Junior midfielder Roko Prsa of Croatia made a tantalizing run down the right flank and poked a through ball to his countryman, first-year forward Renato Kauzlaric, who neatly finished for the opening goal.

Holy Cross refused to concede another, however, and kept themselves in the match until opportunity came knocking in the 67th minute. The Crusaders earned a corner kick and the referee awarded a penalty kick after some commotion in the box. Sophomore midfielder Max Krause stepped to the spot and coolly slotted the equalizer past the River Hawks keeper. The match looked headed for a draw until another set piece gave Holy Cross hope in the final moments. Holy Cross were given a free kick 25-yards out in the center of the pitch. Krause was destined to play hero, as his sharp effort deflected off the wall and caromed into the River Hawk net to all but seal the upset for the Crusaders.

The Crusaders looked to carry the momentum from the UMass-Lowell win into conference play in their road tilt against Lafayette in Easton, Penn., last weekend. Neither team could make a breakthrough in the first half, as Stutz made two saves and first-year goalie Alex Sutton claimed one for Lafayette. The match remained scoreless until the 79th minute, when senior midfielder Tyler Bell put the Crusaders ahead, assisted by fellow senior midfielder Bobby Barsic. However, the lead was short-lived for Holy Cross, as junior midfielder Chris Gomez equalized for the Leopards by slotting home a low cross from the touchline. The game ended in a draw after two goalless overtime periods.

While the Crusaders would have loved to get a win over Lafayette, they will be content to walk away from their first two league matches with four points, especially with one of those matches coming on the road at the end of a crowded stretch in the schedule. A Crusader claimed the Patriot League Midfielder of the Week award for the second consecutive week, with Barsic earning the distinction previously.

 

Photo by Go Holy Cross

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