Three games into Atlantic 10 Conference play, the Fordham men’s soccer team is right back where it needs to be.
After dominating the La Salle Explorers 3-0 last week, the Rams defeated Davidson University 3-0 on Oct. 7 and Duquesne University 2-1 on Oct. 11 to improve to 3-0 in A-10 play.
Team morale has been high all season, but now that the Rams are back on track, it is better than ever.
“We are really starting to believe that we are the team to beat in our conference and that other teams should not expect an easy game when they play us,” junior defender Andy Hickey said.
The first half at Davidson was quiet for both teams, as only four shots were recorded between the two sides. The score remained tied at zero until the 58th minute, when the Rams struck first.
Senior Kyle Bitterman beat his defender down the right wing and sent a cross to the top of the 18-yard line. Senior captain Ryan Cupolo one-timed a shot off the Davidson keeper’s hand and into the back of the net for his second goal of the season, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead.
“At this point of the season we really have nothing to lose, [and] knowing that makes us able to relax on the field a little more” Bitterman said.
Fordham increased its lead to 2-0 in the 72nd minute on an excellent play from Hickey. The junior intercepted a clear from Davidson’s back line and dribbled through several midfielders. He fired a left-footed shot from 35 yards out that hit the inside of the right post and bounced in for his first goal of the season.
“It just fell nicely on my left foot and I decided to take the strike on,” Hickey said. “I might take that shot 100 times and it might not go in, but this one was an amazing feeling to score and increase our lead.”
The Rams capped their scoring on a combination play in the 75th minute. From the top of the eighteen, junior Ole Sandnes slid a pass to sophomore Jannik Loebe. The German quickly turned and from 15 yards out, fired a scorcher into the back of the net to lock in Fordham’s 3-0 win.
The two 3-0 wins – against La Salle and Davidson – mark the first time since 2006 that the Rams scored three goals in back-to-back games. Back then, the Rams did it against George Washington University and La Salle.
Three days later, the Rams headed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to take on the Duquesne University Dukes on their home turf.
The Rams had the advantage early on, as the referee gave Duquesne’s Peace Drevitch a red card in the 11th minute for a foul on Fordham’s Jannik Loebe.
The remainder of the half was scoreless, but the Dukes were the first to register a goal in the second half.
In the 57th minute, Chris Alescio headed the ball forward to teammate Fredrik Borenstein. The sophomore touched it back to Colin Phillips, who drilled a shot into the left side of the goal from 16 yards out to give Duquesne a 1-0 lead.
Fordham responded promptly, scoring a goal of its own a minute later.
Bitterman nearly replicated his assist from the game against Davidson, except his pass landed on the foot on Jannik Loebe this time. His freshman brother – Janos Loebe – dummied Bitterman’s pass as it crossed the field, giving Jannik a clear shot at goal. The sophomore buried it to even the score at one a piece.
“It was great” Jannik Loebe said when asked about the combination goal with his brother Janos. “We know each other pretty well and I always know what he’s doing next. We played for many years together and we are happy that we are able to do that again now.”
The older Loebe struck again in the 65th minute to put Fordham ahead for good.
Hickey won a challenge at midfield and sent the ball forward to Loebe, who made a quick move around the left side of his defender. He took one more touch and scored to the lower left corner of the net from 18 yards out, giving the Rams a 2-1 lead.
Fordham remained steadfast on defense for the remaining 25 minutes of the game to preserve the victory. Keeper Rashid Nuhu registered four total saves, while Duquesne’s Evan Kozlowski made one.
The two wins at Davidson and Duquense bring Fordham’s overall record to 5-4-3 on the season – a huge improvement prior to the start of A-10 play.
The Rams will next host St. Louis University on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7:30p.m on Jack Coffey Field. The Billikens will be out for revenge, as Fordham defeated the team in the semi-finals of the A-10 conference championship last season.
St. Louis is having a similar season to the Rams thus far, as their current record sits at 4-4-2. However, the team’s record in the conference is 0-1-2 while Fordham’s is much stronger at 3-0.
If the Rams continue to win balls in the midfield and control the pace of play, the team will be in good shape. Continued production up top will be crucial, especially from the Loebe brothers.
“These three wins were a reward for the hard work we’ve been putting in all year thus far,” Cupolo said. “We knew each game would be a battle and getting three in a row helps us build not only our confidence but a good rhythm of play going forward.”