The Oswego State Men’s Soccer team scored two first half goals in a rain soaked contest and moved over .500 with a 2-0 victory over the Utica College Pioneers.
Sophomore midfielder Alex Sestak scored both goals off assists from freshman forward Bernard Osei. Lakers proceeded to use their defense to shut down the Pioneer offense throughout the game as they put themselves over .500 after five games for the first time since the 2011 season.
Sestak put the Lakers on the board in the 32nd minute in recording his first goal of the season after taking a cross-field pass from Osei. Sestak chested it, dribbled around two defenders and shot it past the outstretched Pioneer goalkeeper Nick Hallett to put the Lakers in the lead.
The Lakers were able to establish themselves and their play on the Pioneers towards the latter part of the first half. They exploited the space and got their second goal, with Sestak socring his seocnd off another assist from Osei as the game neared halftime. It was a simpler finish compared to his first goal as he got on the end of cross right in front of goal past Hallett.
Conor Lunduski made an impact in the first half as well. The sophomore consistently cut into the Pioneer defense attempting to create space. He struck the ball from outside the box and forced a save from Hallet.
“Its just great to get a win and get above .500,” said Lunduski. “We’ve often struggled in our non conference games so this game is definitely boosting our confidence.”
After the Lakers went up by two goals their defense grounded down and prevented the Pioneers from getting many clear chances.
Mitch Brickman, vocal leader for the Lakers, was a key man for the Lakers defense as he imposed himself on the Pioneer offensive players as they found it hard to create much when up against him.
The Pioneers did have themselves a few chances, however. They created a chance on a long ball to senior Bita Gazashivili as he beat Lakers senior goalkeeper Todd Lawson but missed the far post to his left as the game remained scoreless. Lawson deflected a shot from Shane Ruffing just minutes later with just over 20 minutes left in the first half.
The Lakers and Pioneers played a back and forth game, trying to handle the harsh conditions on the pitch. It was the first night game at home for the Lakers in their history due to the new stadium.
Osei came off the bench and the freshman created an immediate impact as he has had throughout the early parts of the season.
“We played a good team and the other guys played great,” Osei said. “When I go into the game I just have work really hard.”
Coach Bob Friske believed this was a big victory for this roster, especially after their big double overtime road win against the Hamilton College Continentals earlier in the week.
“It was a gritty win that required a lot of mental focus to come out and perform after a big W,” Friske said. “I was really happy not just because they came ready to play but because they played well.”
Lawson had to make a great effort to stop a shot by Patrick Claffey, who fired the deflection wide. Lawson, who has been a silent leader for the Lakers in between the sticks, has come up huge in key moments this season for his team. He made five saves in the contest and has 24 saves on the season total.
The early part of the second half saw both teams play a physical back and forth game, with barely any type of clear chance for any side. The conditions had the players feelings the effects as the rain continued picking up as the game progressed.
The Lakers forced a great save from Hallett about 15 minutes into the second half, with Sestak looking for his hattick but was denied by a great effort from the keeper.
The contest eventually became a grind it out effort for the Lakers as they sat comfortably on their 2-0 lead. The defense, which dealt with any problems the Pioneers tried to give them and Lawson behind them to clean up everything else was a perfect combination on the night, and it left the Pioneers openly frustrated.
Pioneer Joseph Hunter was able to shake the Lakers’ nerves however as his free kick clanged off the top crossbar as he almost cut into the Lakers lead.
The Lakers were in no rush to push the ball up the field as they maintained consistent possession in order to wind down the clock.
The game winded down little by little without much more of a threat from either side in the rain.
With fewer than 10 minutes left the Lakers found themselves with a chance at a third but Conor Lunduski’s header was just wide.
From that point onwards in became clear who would walk away with the victory.
The Lakers improved to 3-2 on the season and 2-2 in their new stadium. The Lakers will travel to Alfred University Saxons for their second road game of the season, where they will look to go two games above 500.
The game against the Saxons will be played Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Yunevich Stadium.