by Tom Utescher
After a 1-0 loss in their soccer season debut at New York’s Mercy College last Thursday, the men of Chestnut Hill College won by the same score two days later in their 2013 home opener.
Both the Griffins and their guests, the University of California (Pa.), came away with 1-1 records on the season. The Cal PA Vulcans had opened their season with a 4-1 home field win over Walsh University, an Ohio school that was officially admitted to NCAA Division II over the summer.
CHC head coach Keith Cappo noted “Cal’s a strong team and they’re going to be high up in the PSAC (Pa. State Athletic Conference), so it’s a good win for us.”
Now embarking upon his fourth season as skipper of the Griffins, Cappo is a Penn Charter graduate who went on to play at Catholic University.
Asked to compare his team’s 1-0 loss with its subsequent 1-0 victory, he related, “At Mercy we actually controlled the ball a fair amount of the time, but we also made too many unforced errors for turnovers. They actually scored their goal on a counter; we were attacking, they took the ball from us and went up the field and we were caught off-guard.”
Back home on Saturday, Chestnut Hill got on the board early as junior Juan Amaya scored in the 11th minute, and then the Griffins were able to preserve their slim lead the rest of the afternoon.
“Today is the first time we played the way we want to play,” Cappo said. “We defended as a group of 11, as opposed to a bunch of individuals. That’s something we talked about before the game.”
CHC had no choice but to begin the 2013 season with a new goaltender following the graduation of four-year starter Mike Goldstein (now an assistant coach for the squad). The candidates were junior Fred Kissinger and a pair of freshmen, James Jackson and Travis Powers. The starting nod so far has gone to Jackson, who helped lead Washingtown Township High School to the New Jersey state semifinals in Group 4 in 2012.
“In the preseason, Jim stepped up as a leader and the guys kind of flocked to him,” Cappo commented.
On Saturday, he made four saves, while his Cal PA counterpart Shane Donovan (a junior out of Central Bucks East) recorded one stop.
CHC senior Hernan Angula launched the first shot of the game from about 30 meters out in the center of the field. This attempt was spurned by the Vulcans’ Donovan, and soon after that a hard boot by junior Nick Jaffe sent the ball a little wide of the right post.
Continuing to attack, the Griffins had Angulo win a 50/50 ball near the right corner and then make a centering pass. The ball continued on its way and gained height as it was flicked by senior Darryl Richardson, Jr., and a few meters inside the right post Amaya was in position for a header that finished the play.
Only 10 minutes and 24 seconds had run off the game clock, and the Griffins settled in for what would be a long vigil over their 1-0 lead. Through the middle portion of the first period they guarded their advantage by keeping the ball in the offensive half much of the time. With nine minutes left a promising rush for Cal PA ended with Vulcan groans as they buried a shot in the netting outside of the right goalpost. With under three minutes to go Chestnut Hill missed a chance for an insurance goal as a shot by Jaffe from the left side of the box tracked outside of the near post.
With his ballclub’s 1-0 lead living on into the second half, Coach Cappo said, “I’m glad we weren’t just bunkered in the whole time; we were going forward when we could.”
The Griffins did find themselves back on their heels a bit when Cal PA came out strong for the second period and attacked from the get-go, but CHC survived the early onslaught. Rookie keeper Jackson showed maturity in the cage, and with 17 minutes elapsed he received a major boost from fellow freshman Nil Fussen, who cleared the ball from in front of the goal after a dangerous serve into the middle by the Vulcans.
The visitors continued to press for the equalizer, and their final 11-7 lead in the shooting stats was weighted towards the second half, when they outgunned the Griffins, 7-1. With 6:30 left to play, Cal PA lined up for a direct kick about 25 meters out in the middle, but Jeffrey Kyei’s blast was deflected out past the left post by a diving Jackson, coming up with his best save of the day.
Four minutes later, he stopped a shot sent skipping in at him by the Vulcans’ Lubos Kubik, and soon the final horn signaled a CHC victory.
Praising his core seniors, Cappo said, “Darryl, Hernan, Bobby [Stocklin], and Brooks [Mirabella] have done a good job of leading the guys.
“Nick Jaffe, who’s from Brazil, has come in as a nice attacking option,” he went on, “and Nils has helped solidify the back line. We’ll have even more depth when [senior] Georges Beyiha gets back from his ankle injury.”