By Pete Chiodo
The Allegheny College men’s soccer team has to make some room at the top of the North Coast Athletic Conference standings after falling to visiting Ohio Wesleyan 3-0 Saturday at Frank B. Fuhrer Field.
The loss interrupts a seven-match winning streak for the Gators, and drops the club’s record to 13-2-1 overall and 5-1-1 in the NCAC.
And with DePauw’s 1-0 win over Oberlin last night, the Tigers take over the top spot in the conference with 17 points. The Gators are now sharing second with OWU, both of whom have 16 points. The Battling Bishops are also 5-1-1 in the conference (11-2-3 overall).
“We have a loss and a tie, and they have a loss and a tie,” said Gators head coach Angelo Panzetta. “We’re still tied, even though they have the head-to-head with us. ... So we’re still in a very good spot with two matches to go.”
Battling Bishops coach Jay Martin credits the victory to a rare deviation of the game plan in the second half.
“Angelo is a good coach. He knows how we play because I haven’t changed in 36 years,” said Martin. “And he had his team, in the first half, defending us very well.”
Neither team would find the net in the first half. Wesleyan had six shots towards the goal. Allegheny had two.
“So we changed a little bit and went a little bit more direct,” said Martin. “Instead of playing underneath to feed, which we always do, we changed. And I think it caught them off guard a little bit, because we hardly ever do that. I stick to how we play to the bitter end. But we had to do something. I thought the first half was pretty even.”
Just four minutes into the second half, that switch started paying dividends. Wesleyan brought a crowd up to the Allegheny goal. Gators keeper John Lichina deflected a shot from Keith Danley. But the rebound bounced to the Bishops’ leading scorer, Colton Bloecher, who proceeded to knock it into the net.
OWU struck again about four minutes later. The Bishops worked up an odd-man rush towards the goal as Jon Stegner got a nice through ball from the midfield. He then handed it over to Olsen, who toed it in from up close for his second tally of the night.
“Colton is a handful,” said Martin. “The problem we have is we can’t score goals. Colton and (Brian) Schaefer, our two forwards, are midfielders. They’re much better in the midfield. But we literally don’t have any forwards. And about halfway through the season we said, ‘Screw it. Colton, you’re on top.’ He’s hard to handle. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s got good speed. He’s got good skill. He’s done really well for us.”
Wesleyan then made it 3-0 with 19:33 to play. This time, Olson got the assist. Taylor Rieger notched the goal.
“A couple of those goals were plays where they got deflections, and plays that we had defensively that we didn’t get lucky bounces on,” said Panzetta. “But, again, (OWU) is taking the initiative by flying guys forward. I don’t think it was a huge adjustment for them. But they were able to take advantage of a couple balls that bounced around the 18 (yard box) and slot them.”
Ohio Wesleyan goalie Paul Hendricks needed just two saves to post the shutout victory. The Gators had a total of three shots in the match, including just one that sailed high in the second half.
“The thing I was most disappointed about with our second half,” Panzetta said, “was that we left so many attacks on the table that we ended up not getting into the final third because of bad decisions or a ball that had too much pace on it — stuff that we had been doing pretty well up until this point. So it was pretty uncharacteristic of us.”
Wesleyan, meanwhile, had 15 shots, nine of which were on goal.
Allegheny will look to rebound on Wednesday, hosting Oberlin at 7:30 p.m. back at Fuhrer Field. The Gators then finish the season on Saturday with a key matchup at DePauw.