In the three- ar history of Sandy McAllister Field, the Saints of St. Lawrence University have yet to lose on their home turf during the regular season.
It remained that way early Tuesday evening despite a valiant effort from the men’s soccer team. The nation’s second-ranked squad prevailed 2-0 in a tightly-contested, physical battle in Canton.
“Our kids played very well,” Head Coach Chris Apple said. “[Sophomore Jeremy] Goico hit the post on one shot early in the first half and [sophomore Nate] Micklos went one on one with the goalie on the left side and drew it back to [sophomore Gary] Stom who had an empty net. Then out of nowhere a defender slid and took it away. It easily could have been 2-0.”
Instead, St. Lawrence took the lead and control of the game in the 22nd minute when junior midfielder Phil Koshi delivered one of his vaunted flip-throws. The throw traveled forty yards to the head of substitute John Loftus, who knocked it past senior goalkeeper Brian Minehan.
“We knew about the flip throw in the scouting report,” Apple said. “But it was a throw like no other. The ball traveled on a line like a line drive. It was actually more dangerous than a corner kick.”
Although the Yellowjackets went to the locker room down a goal, Apple was impressed with the effort.
“I thought we dominated play for the first 45 minutes of the game, ghe said.
As the game progressed in the second half, St. Lawrence wore down UR with superior fitness and depth.
Of the 26 St. Lawrence substitues, all but five saw playing time. The Yellowjackets, in contrast, only used four reserves.
The disparity became apparent in the 67th minute when St. Lawrence forward Ryan O’Dowd beat a tired defense to score his third goal in as many games. From there, the Saints took possession as the Yellowjackets starters struggled to keep it close. UR did not pose a serious scoring threat in the last 25 minutes of the game.
If any loss can turn out to be a blessing in disguise for a UR squad looking to join the upper-echelon of Division III soccer, arguably a defeat at the hands of the nation’s best program in the last five years may be it.
“Good teams will expose many of the problems we have in small areas,” Apple said. “We could use some improvement in our individual defense, fitness and finishing.”
If such improvements are made, it may not be long before UR enters such an elite group. St. Lawrence has been to two final fours in the past four years, winning the 1999 national title on top of its current 27-game home winning streak.
“There are three teams – Messiah, Trinity in Texas and St. Lawrence that year in, year out are the standard in DIII soccer. We are very, very close, centimeters away,” Apple said. “We are so close. So close that our guys can taste it and I know we will reach that level soon.”
That assertion was apparent in UR’s impressive 3-0 victory over SUNY Geneseo last Friday night before a boisterous crowd at Fauver Stadium.
Micklos scored on a free kick early in the fifth minute and the Yellowjackets never looked back.
The nation’s 23rd ranked team, according to the NSCAA/Adidas poll, added two more goals on penalty kicks.
Senior Nick Wheeler scored after Micklos was fouled in the box in the 58th minute. Micklos added his second score of the night 14 minutes later after a Geneseo handball.
The victory marked UR’s 450th in its 73 year history and Apple’s 50th since he took over the program in 2001.
UR returns home to Fauver Stadium on Saturday afternoon to take on Clarkson University.
The Knights come in with a 1-3-2 record after consecutive losses to SUNY Cortland and Rochester Institute of Technology.
On the Sept. 23 the Yellowjackets will go up against a talented Ithaca College squad on Fraternity/Sorority appreciation night.
Rybaltowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.