Men beat Colgate 3-2 in Homecoming
To a fan, junior Peter Philipakos' 63rd minute strike may have looked like an insurance goal at the time, pushing the Eagles' lead over Colgate to 3-1, but if this season has taught AU Men's Soccer anything, it's the value of insurance.
In the end, Philipakos' strike made the difference in a crucial 3-2 victory over the Raiders on homecoming day at Reeves Field, the Eagles' first in the Patriot League this season (5-7-1, 1-3-0). Philipakos' goal marked his team-leading fifth of the year.
"In the Patriot League, everyone fights until the end," Philipakos said about his goal and the match's late stages. "I knew we needed to get to 3-1. In other games we've gotten ahead and then defended, and that hasn't worked for us."
AU didn't just sit back and defend its lead Saturday. Aside from scoring three goals, the Eagles hit the post five times, four times while they had the lead. Colgate 'keeper Will Martin was forced to make several fine saves, but in the end couldn't do enough to keep the Raiders alive.
"I still don't think we played our best game," said AU Head Coach Todd West. "But we finally scored some goals. And this is the first one-goal game we've won this year, so I am really proud of our guys."
The Eagles helped their cause by getting ahead early through junior midfielder David Marut, who finished senior defender Brett Niebling's rebound in the 16th minute. Marut scored only seconds after hitting the post on a previous shot, one that began a flurry of activity in front of the Colgate net. It was Marut's determination and peskiness that would set the tone for AU's afternoon and secure his first goal this season.
"Dave has been great all year," West said. "He works and works and never quits, and when you do that, good things come."
AU might have felt unlucky not to double the lead soon after, when junior midfielder Shawn Kuykendall's 20-yard free kick hit the left post. But later Colgate created several chances of their own, including one leading to a goal that was disallowed for offside in the 24th minute.
Two minutes from half, the Raiders drew even when defender Kevin Toomey broke free down the right wing and sent a low driven cross to forward Jonathan Cook. Cook slid in near post and volleyed past AU junior 'keeper Thomas Myers from about four yards to tie the score and give Colgate the halftime momentum. Or so they thought.
"At halftime I told our guys: whether it's zero-zero, one-one, or three-three, we still have 45 minutes left to play," West said. "If we kept the ball at our feet we could beat them over and over."
The Eagles took this advice and regained the lead almost immediately after halftime. Philipakos carried the ball down the left wing to begin the attack, and found freshman forward Sal Caccavale inside the 18-yard box. Caccavale and Marut both got touches on the ball before Caccavale blasted a 15-yard effort past Martin in the 47th minute.
Sixteen minutes later Philipakos scored after getting free again down the left wing. Junior forward Andrew Herman won a head ball to free Philipakos, who carried almost from midfield all the way to goal before beating Martin again, whose defense had stranded him.
"Herman contested the punt, which was very important," Philipakos said. "I tried to read it, and when it fell to me I just hit it in front of me and ran."
But Colgate made things interesting before the match ended. In the 79th minute, AU junior defender Sean Albright went down after a rough challenge with Colgate midfielder Ryan Boyd. After medical attention, West decided to keep Albright in the match. With Albright less than 100 percent, Colgate took advantage, with defender Reed Grimes finishing midfielder Justin Seconi's right cross in the 81st minute.
"Hindsight's 20-20," West said of his decision not to substitute for Albright. "They'd been so dangerous in the air that I wanted to leave Albright in. But I could've brought in (freshman defender Jonathan) Barbarin."
Albright and his AU side didn't fold, and did enough down the stretch to secure the win and prolong their post season hopes. But with only one win in four league matches, AU probably needs to go undefeated in their final three PL games to make the league tournament. With two of those last three matches at home, the task is difficult, but it's not impossible.
After an out of conference match in Germantown, Md., against Loyola College on Wednesday, Oct 22. at 7p.m., AU plays its last PL road match at Bucknell next Sunday, Oct. 26 at 1 p.m.
And while any wins are nice, at this point in the season, league wins are the only ones that matter.
"We tell our guys that Wednesday is a pre-season match getting ready for Sunday," West said.