Men's soccer falls to No. 18 New Hampshire, dominates Niagara

by Anna May Mott | 9/23/19 2:10am

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After dropping a close match to UNH, the men’s soccer team came back big to beat Niagara University 7-1. The team then dropped its match against Albany on Tuesday.

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Staff

After a tough 1-0 loss at the No. 18 University of New Hampshire last Wednesday, the men’s soccer team came back home with a point to make on Saturday. The Big Green dominated play for 90 minutes and defeated Niagara University 7-1.

A single goal in the second half proved to be the game winner for the Wildcats in the contest against UNH. Dartmouth struggled to maintain possession on Wednesday, forcing the team to play defense against one of the top teams in the country. The Wildcats out shot the Big Green 16-3, but the back line and goalkeeper Alex Budnik ’22 kept Dartmouth in the game, with Budnik posting a career high of seven saves. 

Wednesday’s game was also the team’s first of the season on a turf field. The ball rolls and bounces differently on turf and grass, so the Wildcats’ familiarity with the surface gave them an advantage. However, head coach Bo Oshoniyi said the team doesn’t make excuses about the fields they play on.

“We like to put our team in a position to win anywhere — whether it’s on turf, grass, at home or away,” Oshoniyi said.

On Wednesday, Dartmouth was coming off of a big win at home against Michigan State University, and before that, the Big Green had shut out the University of Massachusetts. The hard-fought loss to in-state rival UNH, then, serves as a reminder of the level of effort needed to stay on top in the competitive field of men’s soccer.

“I think [Wednesday’s game] really is refocusing us and letting us know that the little details are really important,” said co-captain Zach Kalk ’20. “We can’t take any day off.”

Going into Saturday’s game, according to Kalk and Oshoniyi, the team was looking to clean up some technical errors, maintain solid possession and capitalize on the motivation the UNH game gave them. Dartmouth was ready to send a message. 

“We’re a resilient group, and the guys are excited to get back out at Burnham, and play in front of our home fans, and really show the kind of team we are,” Oshoniyi said, adding, “I don’t think [Wednesday’s] game showed the true identity of our team.”

The Big Green has not been defeated on Burnham Field since 2016, and Saturday was no exception. The team dominated possession throughout 90 minutes of play, consistently pressuring the opposing net. Dartmouth opened scoring early and doubled its number of goals on the season in just the first half of the game. The team was able to use their depth, with seven different goal scorers, with four of them finding the back of the net for the first time in their careers.

Co-captain Henry Baldwin ’20 notched his first goal of the season inside the first three minutes of the game off an in-swinging corner kick by Dawson McCartney ’21. These corner kicks would prove dangerous for Niagara more than once in the contest. Less than three minutes later, Kota Sakurai ’21 claimed Dartmouth’s second goal, which would be the game-winner, with an assist from Kalk and David Alino ’23 — who saw his first start in Saturday’s game. Around the 25-minute mark, Dartmouth capitalized on a corner kick again when Mothibi Penn-Kekana ’22 headed in his first career goal. To finish up the first half, Alino gathered his second assist of the game, sending the ball across the net for McCartney to drive home. 

With a 4-0 lead going into the second half, the team was able to give its less experienced athletes some playing time, but still the Big Green didn’t let up on pressuring the net. Aron Rudich ’21 scored the first goal of his career off assists from Eric Sachleben ’23 and Jesse Scanlon ’20. Niagara scored its only goal of the game after a free kick, but Pedro Campos ’23 restored the five-goal lead with a free kick of his own a few minutes later, making the first goal of his career in the first game of his career. To put a cap on the contest, former goalkeeper Aaron Schwartz ’21 broke away with a pass from Sachleben and beat the buzzer for his first career goal.

Not only did this victory make a statement about Dartmouth’s intentions for the year, but it also showcased the talent among the team’s newer members. Alino, as an example, made sure to make his presence known when he joined the starting lineup on the field last weekend. He tallied two assists and contributed to playmaking throughout the contest. Sachleben also had a two-point game, and Campos notched his first goal. These performances bode well for the future.

The team has set a tone for the rest of the season with its games this week —responding to its defeat at UNH by correcting mistakes and taking control in the next game.

“Motivated is the biggest word for us,” Kalk said. “We realize what it takes and what kind of game you have to play to be a top team.”

Looking forward, Dartmouth will play the State University of New York at Albany away this Tuesday, then return home to face the University of Connecticut next week. 

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