When a program loses nine seniors from the year prior, it can be difficult to establish success for the upcoming season, especially early on.
However, the Shawnee State men’s soccer program certainly looks like a program that has promising tools to work with going forward.
Despite facing a unit that outnumbered SSU in underclassmen by more than a 3-to-1 ratio, the Bears matched Saint Xavier (Ill.) in virtually every category in a fast-paced, up-and-down affair on Sunday afternoon by collecting 11 shots to St. X’s 12 and equaling the Cougars in shots on goal, with six apiece. Freshman goalkeeper Matthew Boreman also had a strong effort by collecting four saves — including three in the first half.
Ultimately, however, a pair of first-half goals by Saint Xavier freshman Caden Patten proved to be the difference as the Cougars edged the Bears, 2-0, at the Shawnee Turf on the Shawnee State University campus.
The result, however, doesn’t take anything away from the potential that Ron Goodson’s lineup has a chance to reach going forward.
“That was the big difference, just being young and playing together for the first time,” Goodson said. “We’ve had a couple of scrimmages, but nothing at this pace and nothing like this heat. I saw some little things that we needed to work on, but everything is fixable. I saw some good things, and I believe we’ll be alright going forward.”
Throughout the first half of the match, both teams took turns producing runs right through the heart of the opposing defenses that awaited them, with Shawnee State getting two excellent opportunities from Scioto County natives Alek Blevins and Bryce Romanello.
However, each of their attempts were ultimately turned away as McHenry, Ill.’s Frank Valle came up to stop a Blevins run just over 10 minutes in, while a beauty of a shot to the far corner post by Romanello was sent back on a brillant save by the senior goalkeeper.
“It was pretty even today,” Goodson said. “Shots were 6-6 in the first half, and they had three on goal and we had two on goal. We just have to take advantage of our opportunities when they’re available to us. Still, I’m pretty pleased with this roster for the first time out. We got some good combination play and worked the ball around really well. It’s simply a matter of getting used to playing alongside each other in game situations.”
Ultimately, however, it was one of the smallest players on the field that proved to have the biggest impact on the contest. Patten, a freshman from McMinnville, Ore. competing in only the second match of his career took a 17th minute free kick pass from Rockford, Ill.’s David Rebollar and punched it in on the near side.
Then, with less than three minutes to go in the first half and room in front of him to pull the trigger, Patten launched an unassisted tally into the net from 35 yards out that also reached the near side as St. Xavier took a 2-0 lead into the halftime break.
But after St. Xavier took initial control of the first half of play, it was Shawnee State who stepped up to equalize, and even put pressure on, the Cougars.
Despite not having a single senior on the roster, the play of Western Michigan University transfer Mitchell Patchett — who fought off three defenders from his midfielding position to obtain possession for Shawnee State near midfield — and an improving defensive backline allowed the Bears to establish rhythm on the offensive end of the field after the attack was stagnated initially.
“If we had a man of the match today, it would’ve been Mitchell,” Goodson said. “He did really well for us today, I thought.”
Thanks to the play of Patchett, Romanello, along with Caspar Nolte, were able to make back-to-back charges on the goal in the 67th and 68th minutes, and came agonizingly close to a pair of goals in the process of doing so.
However, Romanello’s shot attempt sailed just wide to the far side of the net, and a free kick opportunity from the far side of the box by Nolte bounced off the crossbar after Valle leaped high in the air to get a mitt on the ball. An offside call immediately after the save wiped out the best scoring opportunity that SSU had in the second half as the Cougars held on for the victory.
While the loss means that the Bears will start the year off with a 0-1 record, Shawnee State’s improvement in just 80 minutes of action on Sunday could bode well when Shawnee State takes on Mount Vernon Nazarene in Mount Vernon. The Bears will look to collect their first victory over the Cougars since Sept. 28, 2007 — a 1-0 SSU win.
“Mount Vernon will put a good team out on the field,” Goodson said. “They usually have a good squad every time that we play them. They’ll be similar to St. Xavier. We’ll work on some stuff this week, and will hopefully be ready to go on Saturday.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7