The Roanoke Men’s Soccer team opened the 2015-2016 campaign atop the ODAC preseason poll with seven first place votes and a total of 116 points, but struggled out of the gate with a win and two losses during an out-of-conference series.
The Maroons’ season opener brought Ferrum College to a packed Kerr Stadium for what would be an intense matchup. Roanoke applied the pressure early in the first half, forcing Ferrum to focus solely on their defensive effort. While on the attack, the Maroons launched five shots on goal and only allowed Ferrum to sneak one weak shot during the first half. However, none of Roanoke’s shots managed to find the net until the 29th minute. Tim Mahabir, a sophomore midfielder, put the Ferrum defenders on skates and fired a shot into the top left corner of the goal before the goalkeeper even had a chance to react. Roanoke held the advantage until Ferrum managed to score on their only shot on goal of the half. Roanoke’s Cole Sinclair, the ODAC’s top goalie last season, made a great play on the ball but it managed to slip under his arm and trickle into the goal. The score remained tied through the end of the half.
The Maroons started slowly in the second half. Ferrum pushed the ball on offense, and the Maroons were forced to pick up the intensity to prevent any of Ferrum’s early shots from finding their mark. The Maroons’ defense stood strong, and the offense regained its foothold and pushed back into Ferrum territory. With just 14 minutes left in what was starting to look like a game that would reach overtime, the Maroons notched two goals in the span of two minutes. Brandon Bauer notched the first on a deep shot that found the back of the net, and Rob Lentine tallied the second after a pinpoint pass from Jackson Goyette. Although Ferrum added another goal within the final ten minutes of play, they were unable to close the gap and the final horn saw the Maroons securing an opening day win 3-2 over Ferrum.
After their exciting first win, the Maroons took part in the Drew Invitational. Playing Drew in their first game of the tournament, the Maroons struggled to convert any of their game-leading 13 shots into goals. On the other hand, Drew came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and converted one of their six first-half shots into a score just nine minutes into the game. After the Drew goal, the game got a little more heated, and after yellow cards were issued to players on both sides. The Maroons committed a foul in the box which led to a successful penalty kick, making the score 2-0 Drew. The remainder of the half saw both teams unable to make much headway, and the score was still tied when the first half ended.
In the second half, the Maroons astoundingly outshot Drew 9-3, but were still unable to convert. Drew’s defense was absolutely locked-down and simply stifled what looked like a strong offensive attack by Roanoke. On a positive note, the Maroons’ excellent offensive pressure prevented any serious pushback by Drew’s offense, and one or two breaks on offense would have changed the game completely for the Maroons. Unfortunately, Drew’s defense held fast, and the game ended with a 2-0 Maroon loss.
In the next game of the tournament, the Maroons faced off against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). Unfortunately, this game was nearly a mirror image of the Maroons’ first match of the tournament. Again, the Maroons outshot their opponent, this time with a count of 14-10, and again they were unable to capitalize on their numerous opportunities. TCNJ put up a goal in each half, and the Maroons were shut out for the second straight game. With another 2-0 loss under their belt, the Maroons moved to 1-2 on the season. Fortunately, none of their losses came in ODAC matches, so the team still has the chance for a fresh start when ODAC play begins. However, before conference play, the Maroons will host the All Sports Cafe Roanoke Invitational this weekend. Be sure to come out and support the Maroons as they look to put up an absurd number of points when they face Greensboro on Friday, and William Peace on Saturday at 7:30pm and 6:30pm, respectively.