Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

The West Chester men’s soccer team finally found the back of the net on Thursday as they thoroughly dominated Holy Family University in a 3-0 win at the South Campus fields.

After two games in which the Golden Rams failed to score despite controlling the run of play, they found the scoring touch on Thursday, putting three goals into the back of the net. And ironically, after having so much possession in these early-season contests, it was on a set piece that the team managed to score its first goal.

In the middle of the first half, West Chester was awarded a free kick on the edge of the Holy Family penalty area. While Holy Family tried to get its wall together, midfielder Neil Gallagher stepped up and buried the free kick past the Holy Family goalkeeper to give West Chester a 1-0 lead.

It was an unusual free kick goal, as West Chester did not even wait for Holy Family to give them the customary 10 yards of space with which to take the shot. That space needs to be asked for by the players, and if it is not asked for, there is no need for the referee to blow his whistle. Therefore, Gallagher was allowed to step up and surprise Holy Family with a shot before they were ready. And sure enough, the move worked, as it gave the Golden Rams their first goal in the 2012 season.

In the second half, West Chester doubled their lead, once again scoring off a free-kick play. After Conor Malarney drew a free kick on the edge of the box, Christian Benner took the kick and played a short pass instead of shooting. It went to defender Tommy Ryan, who curled a beautiful shot around the Holy Family goalkeeper and into the net to put West Chester up 2-0.

While Holy Family was the team trailing on the scoreboard, West Chester seemed like the team more likely to score for the rest of the second half. With less than 10 minutes left, matters were made worse for Holy Family when striker Aiah Mbriwa was sent off, leaving the side with only 10 men. Mbriwa had committed a harsh foul on a West Chester player, and he was given a yellow card for it. Then, he compounded things for himself by shouting at the referee and was issued a second yellow, which resulted in a red-card ejection.

Moments before the final whistle, John Gabel set up Brett Snyder with an excellent low cross that Snyder finished to give the Golden Rams a 3-0 lead. Holy Family was unable to respond, and the game ended as West Chester recorded its first win and first shutout of the season.

“It’s great to finally get a win,” said senior defender Taylor Eisenhauer. “It’s what we needed. We have one more non-league game coming up, but we had to get a win before we start conference play.”

While the win was a great result that the team needed, it was the way in which the Golden Rams won that truly impressed. West Chester not only had the majority of possession, but most of the “duels” and 50-50 tackles that were taking place kept going West Chester’s way.

“We’ve had lots of opportunities throughout the past three games,” said Eisenhauer. “It’s great to have things go our way. We had other opportunities that we should have put away but we finally put one in the back of the net, and any time you get a lead, it’s a lot easier to contain that.”

The first few minutes of the game made it seem as though West Chester’s Achilles heel of finishing was going to affect them once again, but Gallagher’s perfectly executed free kick changed all that.

“It was one of those kind of quick trick plays in soccer where sometimes the goalie sets up before he realigns his team,” said Gallagher. “In soccer, you don’t have to wait for the whistle, so I just kind of took advantage of an opportunity like that.”

To start the second half, Holy Family came out fairly strong and left fans wondering if West Chester was going to blow its only lead this season, but Tommy Ryan saw to that, scoring a marvelous goal off a free kick play to double West Chester’s advantage.

“On Tommy’s goal, we had actually never practiced that set piece before,” Gallagher said. “It’s huge. We know we can win, and it hadn’t come the first two games. Now we don’t have to yell at each other anymore.”

Snyder, one of the senior veterans who anchors the West Chester defense, scored the last goal to put the finishing touches on the win. The game also saw Snyder and the rest of the defense post its first shutout of the season.

“It was definitely much better than it has been the last two games,” Gallagher said. “We kind of approached this game a little differently in our preparation. We typically take a more relaxed practice the day before a game and this time we actually had a more intensive practice. We’ll probably end up doing that from here on out, because, I mean, you can see it in the result- 3-0 after not scoring a single goal in the first two games.”

Now that West Chester is wrapping up the non-league part of its schedule, the team will begin play in the PSAC very soon. After a final non-league game against NYIT on Sunday that was too late for this issue, West Chester then plays Shippensburg in an away game on Wednesday, before hosting Cal. Pa. on Saturday.

Joey Samuel is a fourth-year student majoring in political science and Spanish. He can be reached at JS719745@wcupa.edu.

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