by Tom Utescher
At the outset, Saturday’s soccer match at Victory Field looked to be a wide open shootout, as the Chestnut Hill College men and the visitors from New Jersey’s Caldwell College each scored twice during the first 15 minutes of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference clash.
After that, though, the defense on each side dug in, and the issue was decided by a single goal, with the Caldwell Cougars cashing in early in the second half and then fending off the locals to prevail, 3-2.
Just two days earlier, the CHC Griffins had poked their heads above the .500 mark in the CACC standings, defeating Delaware’s Goldey-Beacom College, 3-1, on goals by junior Mark Pugliese, sophomore Brooks Mirabella, and senior Gavin Reid.
With both Reid and freshman Pat Steger (another regular starter) out of action on Saturday, Chestnut Hill backslid to 3-3 in the conference and 4-5-1 overall, while Caldwell returned to the Garden State at 2-2 in the CACC and 5-4-1 overall.
“We had a good win on the road the other day, and I’m disappointed that we didn’t play the same way today on our home turf in front of our fans,” commented CHC coach Keith Cappo. “Caldwell didn’t do anything spectacular, but they did a good job of capitalizing on our mistakes. We created chances to score more goals than we did, but we didn’t finish.”
The Griffins did manage to match the first two markers chalked up by the visitors. A header by Caldwell’s Arben Cosovic started up the scoreboard just over three minutes into the match, but Chestnut Hill leveled the count six minutes later. From near the middle of the 18, sophomore Chris Wilson passed the ball down low outside the left post for the scorer, junior Darryl Richardson.
In the next minute, CHC was trying to bring the ball upfield but turned it over on an ill-conceived lateral pass. The Cougars charged down the left wing and scored on an outside blast by Evan Teitelbaum. The visitors almost went up 3-1 just after that, but a hard shot aimed inside the left post was stopped by CHC junior goalie Michael Goldstein (five saves).
With 30:54 still to play in the opening half, the Griffins tied the bout at 2-2, with Richardson taking the ball down near the right endline and then crossing it inside. Sophomore Bobby Stocklin was making a run toward the left post and punched the ball home.
After that, the scoreboard settled in for a long autumn’s nap, finally stirring again 12 minutes into the second half. The Cougars converted on a header for the second time in the game, as Facundo Zalazar applied his noggin to a ball lofted in from the left flank by Teitelbaum.
Not long before that, the hosts had a near miss at the other end on a head ball by Mirabella. About six minutes after their guests’ go-ahead goal, the Griffins were up on offense for back-to-back corner kicks, but one ball was headed out of danger by a Cougar defender and the other travelled too far in the air on the restart to set up an effective shot. With about 13 minutes left to play, the CHC sideline thought Caldwell committed a hand ball violation in the penalty area, but no whistle was heard. There were more opportunities, but things just wouldn’t click for Chestnut Hill. Cappo felt the absence of Reid and Steger was one of the factors.
“Both add a lot of dynamics to our offense, so that hurt us today,” he said. “There were just little things wee needed to do better; understanding situations and the timing of the game.”
Caldwell appeared to have Goldstein beat for an insurance score with a dozen minutes left, but CHC senior Chris Moore booted the ball off the doorstep of the Griffins’ goal. As the clock dropped through the final 10 minutes, hopeful home fans had to stifle cheers as a shot by Kevin Bushbeck went over the crossbar and attempts by Stocklin and freshman James Annobil strayed outside the right post of the Cougars’ cage.
Back down on level ground at 3-3 in the conference, Chestnut Hill will needed to raise its game to finish the month in winning territory.
“I hope that we’ll learn that we have to play the full 90 minutes, and especially that we can’t get down early so many times, because it’s tough to have to keep coming back,” Cappo said. “We should take a lesson from today’s game that you just can’t have letdowns, can’t take plays off, because you’re always going to pay for that at the college level.”