BY RYAN HATHAWAY // SEPT. 26, 2015 //
The men’s soccer team was confident before facing off against conference rivals Nichols College (5-4) at home Saturday afternoon. Their pregame chant, “1-0!” hung in the air throughout the game but unfortunately, the team fell short.
The Colonels were visibly frustrated after a 1-0 loss against the Nichols Bison. Their undefeated streak ended after a hard fought battle on the soccer field.
The game got off to a late start, with only two of the officials arriving by the 11 a.m. start time.
Quickly after the game started, the late referee blew his whistle, calling senior forward Mike McFarland offsides. Head coach Peter Mendel quipped from the sideline, “He’s late and he can’t make the right call?”
Even from then on, the officiating was a topic of conversation that would linger throughout the match.
“They were inconsistent, but they did the best that they could,” assistant coach Stephen Siragusa said after the game. Siragusa admitted that although the three referees seemed to be on the same page, the coaches on both sides thought there were some questionable calls.
“It was both sides,” he said. “But you know sometimes that happens, he thought he called a good game.” Despite a lot of yelling back and forth during the game, the Nichols coach approached Mendel after the game to bring up the inconsistencies.
On the field, the Colonels played a strong first half but didn’t overwhelm the Bison. Nichols led in shots taken 10-7, but all seven of Curry’s shots were on goal compared to just three for the Bison.
In large part, this was thanks to Curry’s back four keeping the Bison out of the box. Senior Ryan Madden anchored the defense alongside junior Kevin Leite, and sophomores Eric Miller and Giancarlo Orsini. Still, Nichols seemed to be winning the possession battle in the first half and at least controlled the middle third of the field.
The grittiness boiled over late in the first half with senior forward Matt Cotnoir running back on defense and getting tangled with a Nichols defender. By the end of the half, the Colonels looked tired and struggled to get the ball over mid-field. To make matters worse, the Colonels lost Leite to a hamstring injury just as the first half came to an end.
In the second half, the Colonel defense was playing on their heels more after losing Leite, but senior midfielder Richkaard Verrier played the position well in his absence. Still, several of the Colonels’ scoring chances were stopped by Nichols.
Senior midfielder Rolando Montero took the ball into the box, but was stuffed by a sliding defender and Bison goalie Alex Geas. Not long after, McFarland found a ball up in the air inside the box for a header that just missed wide-right.
Just as the Colonels seemed to be gaining momentum, the Bison found the net. Nichols forward Tyler Brenner took a cross from midfielder Felipe Schiller de Rezende and put it past the dive of Curry goalie Dan Johnson to make it a 1-0 advantage for Nichols with 20 minutes left to play.
In a controversial moment before the goal, one of the officials whistled Curry for a foul on what appeared to be a dive by Brenner. The other official approached the whistling official, but the referee still gave the ball to Nichols. “This is one of the worst reffed games that I’ve ever been a part of,” someone on the Curry sideline muttered.
After the goal, the Colonels were extremely frustrated. There were several instances where hot heads turned into shoves. Only a few yellow cards were thrown, both late in the game, to Cotnoir and Madden. Even the fans started to get heated, they began shouting at each other as the game winded down.
Curry’s last shot on net was a weak kick on the ground that Geas scooped up and soon after that, match was over. “We let the refs get into our heads, we let the other team get into our heads too much and then it took us right out of our game,” Siragusa said. “It just snowballed from there.”
Man down: Leite never returned to the game after leaving at half-time and expressed his disappointment after the game. “It wasn’t easy, I wished I could be out there,” he said. “But if I was out there, I’m kind of a liability, so I had to trust everyone and trust Richkaard.” Leite said his team did well in his absence but thought the loss came down to the Colonels getting away from what they do best and kicking “a few too many long balls.”
Hot tempers: Siragusa also commented on his team’s late penalties, saying that it’s tough to rein in emotions on the field. “For the most part this season, our guys have been pretty good about that. Today, it just got the best of them.”
On to… Westfield: On what his team would do to bounce back, Leite said “Come to practice and then it’s on to Westfield.” Curry takes on Westfield State at home on Wednesday Sept. 30 at Walter M. Katz field at 7 p.m. The Owls are coming at 1-5-1, fresh off their first win of the season against Salem State.