by Tom Utescher
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.”
The air didn’t seem filthy, but it certainly was foggy and damp during last Wednesday night’s soccer match at Chestnut Hill College’s Victory Field, where visiting Wilmington University found fair going and the fans of the host Griffins had to suffer a foul outcome, a 6-1 setback.
Above the ground, mist and light rain wafted through the plumes of illumination from the light stanchions, and down along the spectators’ sideline a coven of female fans stirred the pot by uttering incantations that ultimately got them banished to the parking lot.
It was only a regular-season Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference soccer game, but the CHC men discovered that Wilmington was not an ordinary opponent. The Wildcats, who have been ranked as high as fourth in the Division II East Region poll, arrived with an international cast of characters that included eight players from England alone.
The Delaware side secured its five-point victory after enjoying a relatively modest 2-0 advantage at halftime. The Wildcats notched a third goal just a few minutes into the second period, and the game really got away from Chestnut Hill in the last quarter of competition. During this closing phase the Griffins did manage to avoid a shut-out, but Wilmington doubled its total in the final 24 minutes.
The Wildcats headed back south with an overall record of 7-1, leaving Chestnut Hill with a 3-4-2 mark. In conference play, Wilmington was an unblemished 5-0, while the Griffins leveled out at 2-2-2. Five days earlier CHC had been over the .500 mark overall and unbeaten in the CACC, having gone 3-0-2 in a five-game stretch. On September 26 they were handed their first conference setback by Felician College (a 1-2 game) before hosting Wilmington in the middle of last week.
The Wildcats attacked immediately and controlled much of the play in the first half, which ended with the visitors leading 9-3 in the shot column. Canadian Juan Bernal got them on the board about nine minutes into the game, and 10 minutes before halftime the eventual game-winner was deposited by Nigerian-born Clifford Nwechefom.
Chestnut Hill generated more offense in the second stanza, and got off seven shots to Wilmington’s nine. Nicholas Jaffe, a senior from Sao Paolo, Brazil, made several good attacking runs for CHC throughout the game, and he launched one of the first shots of the second half. His ball was not on net, and the Wildcats scampered back to the offensive end to score their third goal of the evening four minutes into the new period.
For all the foreign flair featured on the Wilmington roster, half of the team’s goals in the match (and three of the four in the second half) came from Delaware natives. It was Lance Berry, a Caravel Academy grad from the town of Bear, who raised the count to 3-0.
With 31 minutes remaining, Griffins junior Matthew McLeod almost got the home side on the board, but his well-struck shot from the right side of the box strayed just wide of the far post. Instead, the count rose to 4-0 with two dozen minutes to go thanks to Salesianum grad Alex Luke, who hails from Hockessin in the Diamond State.
Wilmington’s U.K. contingent is heavy on Hertfordshire lads; four of them come from that county immediately north of London. One of them, Steven O’Connor, made it a 5-0 contest just a few minutes after Luke’s goal.
With the clock dropping near to the six-minute mark, CHC finally beat Wildcats keeper Frank Hall (two saves) though the efforts of Nils Fussen, a junior from Aachen, Germany. Lining up a direct kick from the left side of the box, Fussen drove the ball in high on the near side of the cage for the Griffins’ lone goal.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Chestnut Hill had replaced starting keeper James Jackson (four saves) with fellow junior Miguel Gonzalez- Escobar. When there was a breakaway down the right wing by one of Wilmington’s booters from Bear, Adam Pinder, Gonzalez-Escobar came out into the near side of the box to cut down the shooting angles, but Pinder passed him on his right with a perfectly-aimed shot into the far side of the goal. With a little over two minutes remaining, the final score was on the board.