The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Men’s soccer vies for Patriot League title after overtime wins against American, Loyola

Senior forward Hale Lombard takes a shot against American in the Patriot League quarterfinal game. (Photo by Rick Smith for GoLeopards)

The men’s soccer team (9-5-6 overall, 4-2-3 Patriot League) won in dramatic fashion in both the quarterfinals and the semifinals of the Patriot League tournament, with wins against American (6-5-5 overall, 3-3-3 Patriot League) and Loyola Maryland (7-3-8 overall, 6-1-2 Patriot League) to qualify for the championship against Boston University on Saturday.

The team began its playoff run at home against American University in front of a raucous crowd at Gummeson Grounds. The Eagles grabbed the early lead despite Lafayette’s support in the stands – an American forward beat senior midfielder Carter Houlihan along the end line and fed an assist into the Lafayette penalty area.

Houlihan would make amends in the second half, latching onto a ball parried out by the American goalkeeper and slotting it into the vacated net for the Leopards’ first goal of the game.

“It felt great because I had let my man beat me on their first goal,” Houlihan wrote in an email. “It was nice to make up for that mistake. It’s always important to follow up plays around the net … sometimes you just get a little lucky.”

The goal broke a long scoreless run for the Leopards who had gone nearly 200 minutes without finding the back of the net. Their last goal before the quarterfinal match came in the 75th minute against Stony Brook on Oct. 24. 

“We knew something had to change,” Houlihan wrote. “Scoring the equalizer was such a relief and sparked some energy in the team.”

That energy carried the team into what became a dramatic second half in which the Maroon and White scored two come-from-behind-goals. The referee also booked five players in the second half alone, including a red card against an American player for shoving senior forward Hale Lombard.

Freshman forward and late substitute Roy Biegon grabbed the Leopards’ second equalizer of the game in the 75th minute after sophomore defender Nicholas Liebich headed the ball to him from a corner.

“The moment I saw the ball go over my head, it was instinctual,” Biegon said. “I knew I had to be there.”

The score would remain deadlocked until the end of regulation, and despite dominating the overtime periods, Lafayette could not make its one-man advantage count and was forced to go to penalties. Even with what felt like a missed opportunity, Houlihan said the players did not let their frustrations get the better of them.

“We all had each other’s backs and lifted each other up,” Houlihan wrote. “Obviously, it’s stressful going to penalties but everyone was confident.” 

The team would prevail in the penalty shootout, with junior defender Connor Dawson, Lombard and junior forward Lawrence Aydlett scoring the crucial spot-kicks. Aydlett had the game-winner, burying his shot low and to the goalkeeper’s left.

“I knew I had to stay calm,” Aydlett wrote in an email. “I was very excited that my team put me in position to win the game.”

This win sent the team to Baltimore for a semifinal matchup against Loyola Maryland, a team that had beaten the Leopards just weeks prior. According to Aydlett, this forced the team to enter the match with a renewed focus.

“We knew we could not make any early mistakes, or they’d just sit back and defend like in October,” Aydlett wrote. “We also knew we had to catch them on the counter and with crosses.”

After a back-and-forth match in which neither team could break the deadlock, the match seemed destined for yet another shootout.

However, the Leopards found their form in overtime when Dawson found space down the Greyhounds’ right flank and delivered a perfect cross to a diving Biegon who gave the Leopards the late lead in the 107th minute. 

“The moment I saw Connor [Dawson] get the ball I knew the cross was going to be a dime,” Biegon said. “All I had to do was get my head to it.” 

The Leopards would add a second goal in the final minutes as Loyola threw bodies forward in search of an equalizer. This allowed senior midfielder Benji Grossi to find yards of open space down the left flank and square the ball to Lombard for a simple finish.

The team’s fitness was on full display, as the Leopards were able to outrun and outwork Loyola despite having played a heavier schedule.

“We preach year-round fitness,” Houlihan wrote. “In the off season and summer, everyone is working hard to stay in shape. As we’ve seen so far this playoff run, it’s paid off.”

The team now heads to Boston to face Boston University tomorrow for the Patriot League Championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Division I Soccer Championship. According to Biegon, these two wins give the team the platform to claim the ultimate prize. 

“The energy in this team is out of this world,” Biegon said. “Everyone is hyped to take on [Boston University] … We will give everything to win on Saturday.”

Disclaimer: Assistant Sports Editor Eric Ponieman ’24 is a member of the men’s soccer team. He did not contribute writing or reporting.

Correction 11/10/2023: A previous version of this article misattributed a statement regarding the soccer team’s fitness in relation to a goal scored during the Loyola Maryland game to senior midfielder Carter Houlihan.

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About the Contributor
Martin Familetti
Martin Familetti, Staff Sports Writer
Come On You Spurs.

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