Men’s soccer edges St. Francis Brooklyn 2-1 in double overtime

Ivan Abramovic celebrates his double overtime goal with his overjoyed teammates as the rest of the team rushes onto the field. From left: Jakov Basic (21), Carlos Ruiz (3), Abramovic (without jersey), Wuilito Fernandes (10) and Ivan Blaskic (13). (George DeLuca/Connector)

George DeLuca
Connector Editor

The UMass Lowell men’s soccer team found a way to break a 1-1 tie in double overtime on Saturday in a hard-fought defensive battle at Cushing Field. Although somewhat stymied offensively in the first half, the River Hawks were able to turn the tide in overtime and gain enough momentum to earn a 2-1 victory and remain undefeated.

Redshirt freshman Ivan Abramovic’s winning goal came seven minutes into the second overtime, following a free kick bender from sophomore midfielder Jakov Basic that bounded off the top left crossbar and bounced left towards the corner where Federico Ferre dribbled before firing it back towards Abramovic.

Abramovic saw the pass from Ferre coming from the left corner of the field and executed a perfect bicycle kick to lob a shot that bounced into the left corner of the net as he fell back onto the turf on his back.

Abramovic broke down the play, “I was looking at Ferre. He got the ball on the side and he started dribbling. I saw a bunch of people to the inside and decided that I wasn’t going there. I pulled myself outside and the ball came straight to me and that was it. It landed straight on my feet. It was a perfect feeling. I’m so happy for the team. I can’t describe the feeling of what we just experienced. It’s unreal.”

Abramovic now leads the River Hawks in points (9) and his third goal of the season ties Wuilto Fernandes for the lead in that category.

UMass Lowell’s Carlos Ruiz scored the first goal of the game on a penalty shot. Ruiz caught Terriers goalie Seth Erdman guessing left spread eagle as the midfielder from East Boston hit a low liner into the net to the far right corner.

St. Francis tied the game 27 minutes into the second half as Terriers midfielder Leo Folla took a header pass from senior back Fabian Suele to the left of the box and squeezed a shot into the right corner of the net as River Hawk goalie Austin Kroll tried to cut off the angle.

The teams were evenly matched and each managed five shots on goal. But defense was key throughout. River Hawk coach Christian Figueroa said, “St. Francis Brooklyn is a really tough team. They’re organized and they make it hard for you to play. They take pride in their defense and it showed. As for our guys, the work ethic showed towards the end of the game and it was even higher in the overtime periods so I’m really happy with the guys. It was a team effort.”

The River Hawks struggled with the stingy defense of St. Francis as the Terriers controlled play in their defensive end for much of regulation. Senior Terriers back Collyns Laokandi presented some challenges for UMass Lowell. He’s a highly talented player and quick for his size at 6’4” and 191 pounds. But the River Hawks eventually found ways to penetrate.

Figueroa said, “Laokandi’s a big athletic guy. He’s an athletic defender. He’s strong in the air. You have to find ways to exploit players like that. There were some things about his play that allowed us to get around him and I thought we had some success doing that. I give credit to their whole back line. They were very organized and they played well as a unit.”

Abramovic added, “They put pressure on us and it was hard to play, especially in the first half. But the more the game was going on we calmed ourselves down and started to put more pressure on them. In the last overtime we had four or five chances that we should have scored and thankfully we finally got a goal.”

Once again, senior midfielder/forward Wuilito Fernandes provided a much needed competitive spark on all parts of the field. Freshman back Ivan Blaskic also played an inspired defensive game. River Hawk goalie Austin Kroll (4-0) had four saves to Erdman’s three. Overall, the River Hawks exhibited a classic team effort.

The River Hawks are now 4-0, while the Terriers drop to 1-2. Figueroa commented on the goals of the team, “It’s a tough conference and we want to finish towards the top. I think we have a group that can win the conference. We just have to keep ourselves healthy and in good rhythm.”

The River Hawks hit the road for one game next Saturday to face Quinnipiac (2-2) before returning to play Brown at home on September 14.

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