by Tom Utescher
The men’s soccer team at Chestnut Hill College progressed three games into the season without a loss against some good competition, but the host Griffins hit a roadblock in their fourth outing, playing under the lights at Victory Field last Tuesday.
Visiting St. Thomas Aquinas College scored twice in the opening half and the Spartans padded their lead in the second frame for a 3-0 victory over CHC, which saw its record slip to 2-1-1 overall.
Chestnut Hill had opened its Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference schedule with a 1-0 win over Nyack College, and had defeated West Chester University, a long-established Division II program, by the same score. The Griffins had also forged a 0-0 tie against California University of Pa., which was ranked 12th in the nation in Division II at the time.
The Spartans of St. Thomas hail from about 15 miles north of New York City, and like many teams in that vicinity, they have a sampling of foreign talent and a high soccer IQ overall. They were physically compact, but well-skilled and very fit.
The northern division of the CACC includes a number of suburban New York schools, and after the St. Thomas match Chestnut Hill head coach Keith Cappo pointed out, “When we get more into our conference schedule, we’ll see teams similar to this. They’re well-coached, they’re very well organized on the field, and they have a lot of depth.
“Our schedule is set up on purpose to challenge our guys,” he went on. “We can’t really look ahead at any game and say we’re going to run away with this one or that one.”
Through much of the first half, the Spartans beat Chestnut Hill to the ball in the air and on the ground, and when they didn’t have it, they kept the pressure on the host team. The visitors consistently were able to deliver the ball to the feet of their team mates, while at times it was difficult to determine where the Griffins were aiming their passes.
At least the teams were even on the scoreboard for about 25 minutes, then the Spartans pumped in a pair of goals in a five-minute span. Remmington Lee ran onto a loose ball in the right side of the box and scored inside the left post, then the visitors’ Daniel Davron converted a cross from Ethan Evans.
“We were a little antsy and we weren’t playing our game,” commented CHC’s Cappo. “We pressed a little too much trying to just get the ball forward, and when that opened up space for them they took advantage of it. We hadn’t been behind in any of our first three games, and we need to learn to respond to that.”
Chestnut Hill got loose in transition to pose a few serious scoring threats, but these rushes were always followed by another stretch where the Spartans controlled the ball for several minutes.
Cappo related, “We made some changes at halftime and I think we controlled the run of play for much of the second half, but when you’re already down two goals it’s tough to get back in it.”
The hosts were able to sustain attacks on the St. Thomas goal and get off multiple shots, as opposed to their one-and-done charges of the opening half.
One of the changes Chestnut Hill made at the intermission was to replace veteran junior goalie Michael Goldstein (eight saves), who stands 5’8”, with 6’2” freshman Dave Sullivan.
“The goalie change,” Cappo explained, “was simply because they were trying to play a lot of balls high. We tried to take some of that away with Dave, who gave us a little more height in the cage. It was part of a tactical move to give us a different look out there.”
Sullivan wasn’t credited with any saves in the box score, but he did pull down some long balls served into the penalty area.
Despite their improved look on offense, the hosts couldn’t make a dent on the scoreboard, and late in the game the Spartans asserted themselves once more. A clump of players massed near the right post of the CHC goal with a little over seven minutes remaining, and Sean Devito bodied the ball across the line for St. Thomas, fixing the final score at 3-0.