River Hawk forward/midfielder Wuilito Fernandes (10) tangles with Dartmouth midfielder Alexander Marsh (24). (Photo/George DeLuca)
by George DeLuca
The UMass Lowell men’s soccer team couldn’t conjure up the magic needed to break a 1-1 tie against Dartmouth in yet another double overtime contest on Saturday night at Cushing Field.
The Big Green drew first blood as forward Matt Greer redirected a pass from midfielder Matt Danilack and nicked a header from the top of the box past River Hawk goalkeeper Austin Kroll. That would be the only Dartmouth goal of the night.
Dartmouth has typically started slowly this season, scoring most of their goals in the second half. However, after Greer’s goal at 5:11, UMass Lowell was able to keep them off the board. Much of the credit goes to the roving River Hawk defense and another stellar performance by goalkeeper Austin Kroll who had 6 saves for the night.
But there was a tense moment early in the second half when Big Green midfielder and shot-maker Justin Donawa found himself in the open with a golden opportunity to score.
Donawa made a breakaway and came face-to-face with Kroll, the kind of situation that midfielders dream about. But Kroll positioned himself strategically and when Donawa hammered the shot, Kroll was able to deflect the ball away.
Kroll broke down the play, “I saw that Franky (River Hawk back Franky Martinez) was a little pulled out and it was clear that the ball was going to Donawa. So I got a good read on it and got myself out there to cut down the angle. From that point it was a pretty easy save. Once you’re tight-in on a guy, it’s hard for him to pick out a corner.”
Head Coach Christian Figueroa was pleased with the performance of his goalie. “Austin was sharp tonight. He made a great save coming off his line to keep Dartmouth off the board. He also did well with service coming into the box. I think he took away something they do well.”
Offensively, River Hawks senior midfielder Carlos Ruiz had no trouble nailing a penalty kick by Dartmouth goalie James Hickok at 40:43 to tie the game at one all and complete the scoring for the night.
It was the second goal of the season for Ruiz, both penalty kicks and timely game savers. The first came two weeks ago against St. Francis Brooklyn, in a game that also went into double overtime.
Figeuroa summed up the night, “Dartmouth’s a good team. When you don’t get a loss and you get a draw at home, it’s not a bad outcome because you don’t drop the points.”
“Dartmouth has played a couple of top 25 teams this season (Kentucky and Seattle University) and have gotten some good results,” he continued. “A game like this helps us to gauge our program, and that’s an important takeaway from a game like this.”
Kroll agreed. “It was disappointing not getting the win, but if we take a step back, it was a good team we played and we’re still undefeated. Now we just have to get some energy going forward to face Bryant,” he said.
Forward Wuilito Fernandes echoed the need to raise the intensity level a bit. “We have to have more energy at the start of the game. Once the ref blows the whistle we have to be ready to go. We started the game a little slow and they were ready to play,” he said.
*After Bryant, the team will have a break before facing a slate of strong American East Conference teams starting with Binghampton on Alumni Night, Saturday, October 1 at 5pm at Cushing Field.
Even with an unblemished record, Figueroa is reserved when discussing the team’s prospects going forward, especially against the American East teams. “These games are all going to be tough. Every year we’ve played in the conference it’s been a grind and year four isn’t going to be any different,” he said.
*UPDATE on Sept. 21:
UMass Lowell beat the Bryant Bulldogs 1-0, improving their record to 7-0-1.
The River Hawks are ranked 24th in the nation in the NCSAA Coaches Poll.
Binghamton lost 2-1 to Columbia on Sept. 18. Their record falls to 3-2-3.