Following its win at Fairfield last week, the Fordham men’s soccer team looked to capitalize on its next three matches, two of which were played at Jack Coffey Field.
The Rams first topped the 21st ranked Columbia Lions 1-0 on Sept. 23 and then tied the NJIT Highlanders 0-0 on Sept. 26 after two periods of overtime. Three days later, the Rams dropped its contest at Lehigh 3-0.
Fordham’s win over Columbia came at a critical time in the season. With only a few games remaining before the start of play against Atlantic 10 Conference rivals, the Rams needed an energizing win.
The only goal of the match came in the 74th minute on a combination play. Senior captain Ryan Cupolo controlled the ball around midfield, and fed it forward to fellow senior Tommy Granot. 30-yds from goal, Granot attempted to send the ball across but a Columbia defender got his foot in at the last second.
Instead of crossing the field, the ball glanced off the defender’s heel and trickled away. Freshman Janos Loebe was right there as he swooped in on the loose ball and drilled a shot from 12-yds out. The ball curved inside the left post and past Columbia’s keeper, giving Loebe his second goal of the season and Fordham a 1-0 lead.
“It was good that he scored there because it was an important game against a ranked opponent,” said senior Ryan Walsh. “It showed the potential that our team has this year.”
Two minutes later, Janos Loebe almost made it 2-0 when he caught Columbia’s keeper out of the net. Luckily for the Lions, defender Bryce Terrill saved the shot to keep it a 1-0 game.
For the final fifteen minutes, Fordham’s defense held strong for the 1-0 win. Fordham’s keeper Rashid Nuhu caught a few balls off corner kicks, earning his first career shutout.
The upset was Fordham’s first win over a ranked opponent since Sept. 9 2012, when the team defeated 22nd ranked Brown 1-0.
“I think we played with a lot more confidence,” senior Kyle Bitterman said. “[But] we still have to improve in all aspects of the game.”
Three days later, the Rams faced off against NJIT but did not come out as successful. After 90 minutes and two extra periods, the Rams and Highlanders tied 0-0.
The game was evenly-matched from the start, as there was a lot of back and forth between the two teams and a lack of possession.
One of Fordham’s best scoring opportunities came in the second minute, when Bitterman’s header went off the cross bar and Janos Loebe’s rebound shot was high.
The game became very physical in the second half with both teams earning free kicks. Fordham had more in NJIT’s final third, including a Janos Loebe shot that hooked over the top of the net, but were unable to score.
The scoreless game continued into overtime, where neither team scored to end the game in a draw.
Nuhu kept the Highlanders at bay with three saves, earning his second consecutive shutout and his first A-10 Rookie of the Week honor.
On Sept. 29, the Rams headed to Bethlehem, PA to take on Lehigh in its last game against a non-conference rival. Though close at first, the Mountain Hawks eventually beat the Rams 3-0.
Lehigh got its goals in the 13th, 66th and 83rd minutes and looked dominant throughout the match. The Rams fell short on the scoring end again, generating no significant opportunities.
The Fordham men’s soccer team is at a critical point in its season. With a 2-4-3 record at the end of non-conference play, the Rams need a pick-me-up as they enter competition against A-10 competition at the end of this week.
Though its record is not where it needs to be, the Rams do have positives going for them.
Their defense has been stronger than is reflected in scores. The back line includes several sophomores – Christopher Bazzinni and Matthew Lewis – who have more experience than they even realize.
“We have three or four players that played 21 games for us last year as freshman,” head coach Jim McElderry said. “Those guys are not your typical sophomores, [but] like veterans coming back.”
This experience, paired with the seniority of Cupolo, Walsh and Andres Penfold, juniors Andy Hickey and Ole Sandness, and the addition of graduate students Lars Zimmerman and Gabe Stauber on the offensive end are all advantages for the Rams.
In the first few games against conference rivals, Fordham needs to utilize its talent and execute its offense the way they did in the latter part of the season in 2014. If the team comes out strong to start, there is potential for another Cinderella run come tournament time.
The Rams are next in action on Saturday Oct. 3 against the La Salle University Explorers at 1 p.m. at Jack Coffey Field.