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With extra-time win, men's soccer gains momentum facing Penn

Will Cross ’16 lifts Bruno over Wildcats in midweek non-conference matchup with 91st minute header

It took Will Cross ’16 just 53 seconds of extra time to break a scoreless stalemate and lift the men’s soccer team to a victory over the University of New Hampshire Tuesday. Cross’ goal gave the Bears their first overtime win of the season — the team was 0-1-5 in its first six extra-time games.

The Bears (4-5-5, 1-2-1 Ivy), looking to rebound from last weekend’s crushing loss to Cornell (9-4-1, 2-2-0), shuffled their lineup for the matchup with the Wildcats. Jason Pesek ’17 and Nico Lozada ’18 started in the field instead of Tim Whalen ’16 and Tariq Akeel ’16, two of the team’s usual workhorses.

Head Coach Patrick Laughlin said he wanted to make sure Whalen, Akeel and the other usual starters were well-rested for the upcoming conference game against Penn (6-7-1, 2-2-1). The fifth-year coach used over two-thirds of his roster — sometimes subbing three or four players in at once — to keep his team fresh.

“One of the things we always pride ourselves on is having a squad of players,” Laughlin said. “I think they all did a great job. It sets us up to head down to Penn, not be too fatigued and be able to recover because we didn’t have to push anyone for a full 90 minutes.”

Most fans of the Bears have grown accustomed to seeing the number 27 jersey of Mitch Kupstas ’14.5 anchoring the team in net. But against UNH, Erik Hanson ’17 was given his first start as a collegiate athlete.

Hanson “is very vocal and a quality goalkeeper,” Laughlin said. “He did a good job leading from the back. It’s a good starting place for him as a college player, getting a shutout and a win.”

The Bears played a possession-heavy style of soccer for much of the game. The team kept the ball on the ground and played to feet, rather than heads. While Whalen would usually bomb dangerous long balls from his left back position, Pesek played short passes to Lozada and Eduardo Martin ’16, who patrolled the midfield.

“Not having the pressure of excelling in an Ivy League game allowed us to relax,” Cross said. “It allowed us to pass the ball with a little more purpose than we did over the weekend, when we might have panicked against Cornell.”

The best opportunity of the first half for either side came at the 15-minute mark, when Wildcat midfielder A.J. Albers drove a volley from 10 yards out off the bottom of the crossbar. The Bears actually put a Quinn English ’18 throw into the back of the net in the 39th minute, but for the second game in a row, Bruno had a goal disallowed, this time due to a foul in the box.

Neither team could gain complete control of the game in the second half, so the contest went to extra time.

The Bears started the first overtime period with the ball, and the Wildcats never took possession back. Seven different players touched the ball in the span of 40 seconds, a sequence that ended with Jack Gorab ’16 attempting to float a shot over UNH goalkeeper Ryan Carpenter. The goalie parried the shot to the sideline and out of bounds, but seconds later, English whipped his patented long throw into the box, where Cross rose up above his defender and nodded in the game winner.

“I’m completely pleased with their effort,” Laughlin said. “Sometimes it feels like the ball is never going to bounce our way, but after (Cross’ header), you could see the joy on the players’ faces. It’s great tonic for the loss to Cornell.”

The win gave the Bears a confidence boost heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Quakers, Cross said.

But Bruno will need more than just confidence to keep pace with a streaky Penn team. The Quakers are currently sitting in a three-way tie for second place in the Ivy standings, after drawing Yale (1-10-3, 0-3-1) in their most recent conference game.

Throughout its Ivy League schedule, Penn has played at the level of its opponents, rising to the occasion against tougher teams and falling short of expectations against weaker ones. The team’s only loss of the season came against Columbia (5-6-1, 1-2-1), who is near the bottom of the table. The Quakers’ two wins came against Cornell and Dartmouth (9-4-1, 3-1-0), two teams that, along with Harvard (9-4-1, 2-1-1), have the best overall records in the conference.

Penn’s success is completely predicated on its offense. The team has scored 21 goals this season, the fourth highest mark in the conference. Orchestrating the Quaker midfield is Forrest Clancy, the team’s version of Bruno’s Gorab — a free-kick specialist with an eye for the goal. Clancy leads the conference with six assists and has scored two of his three goals with direct free kicks.

Duke Lacroix and Alec Neumann each have six goals on the season and are frequently the recipients of Clancy’s passes.

While Bruno will struggle to contain Penn’s three-headed offensive beast, the matchup should also give the Bears a chance to find the back of the net. The permeable Quaker defense has given up a league-leading 26 goals in 14 games — an astronomical 1.81 goals against average. Despite averaging under a goal per game, the Bears should be able to net at least one tally against Penn.

The UNH game revealed the Bears’ ability to maintain possession of the ball. Cross said the team is at its best when forwards are making probing runs at opposing defenders and players are making precise passes, as was on display against the Wildcats.

“This season, we’ve relied a lot on set piece goals,” Cross said. “But we’re starting to realize that opportunities can also come from keeping the ball on the ground.”

A win over the Quakers would put the Bears back into the thick of the Ivy race, especially if the Crimson knocks off the Big Green. Bruno will also face conference-leading Dartmouth in the last game of the season, and a victory this weekend would put it within striking distance. But Laughlin is not looking that far ahead.

“We expect to go down to Penn and compete,” Laughlin said. “They’re a talented team with some good attacking players. Like every Ivy League game, it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be tight. I’m looking forward to it.”


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