By Philippe Chauveau
The Ohio Wesleyan men’s soccer team extended its win streak to 16 with a 6-0 victory over the Allegheny Gators, the program’s best start since 2005.
“They weren’t a bad team, but we came in and played really well from the start,” said junior defender Ryan Kaplan.
The Bishops started the game on fire despite cold weather. It took OWU three minutes to find the back of the net on a goal by senior forward John Stegner off an assist by fellow senior forward Taylor Rieger.
After the initial goal, OWU did not score again for another 20 minutes. Junior goalkeeper Colin Beemiller had no troubles, collecting a series of stray passes and crosses.
Twenty-five minutes into the game, Rieger and Stegner connected again down the right side.
Kenyon goalkeeper Joe Lichina misread Stegner’s low pass into the box as Rieger anticipated the keeper and hit it into the net on the first attempt.
“We were moving the ball well and finishing our chances,” said Kaplan, who has had a couple of surgeries this season and was delighted to get some playing time in Saturday night’s game.
Ohio Wesleyan kept control of the game by keeping possession and persistently going at the Gator defense. With eight minutes left in the half, sophomore midfielder Ricardo Balmaceda made two crucial plays.
First, sophomore midfielder Brian Schaefer scored on a penalty kick after a foul against Balmaceda to make it 3-0 for the Bishops.
Three minutes later, Balmaceda received the ball on the right side and took a shot at goal. It deflected off an Allegheny defender and went over Lichina, making the score 4-0.
“I was wide open on the right, and when I got played the ball I decided to take a shot,” Balmaceda said. “It was a good shot, but the deflection got it to lob over the keeper and into the goal.”
Allegheny only had three losses in the season before Saturday’s contest, so a four-goal first half was an extremely convincing result for the Bishops.
“We were determined to get another win,” Balmaceda said.
The second half started with some changes in the Ohio Wesleyan line-up. Sophomore goalkeeper Kiyan Pirghyebi replaced Beemiller in goal, and senior midfielder Matt Dodrill took over junior defender Drew Pang’s position as center back.
The Bishops kept attacking the right side. Senior defender Ben Witkoff scored following Lichina’s mishandling a corner kick, the Bishops fifthgoal off a play down the right side. It was Witkoff’s first game this season due to an ankle injury.
“We all thought it was great,” said Kaplan. “Those kind of plays only happen for him, but you could say he was well positioned.
As the game went on, Head Coach Jay Martin made a number of subs and all of the active players for the match saw time on the field.
Freshmen midfielders Nick Norman, Neil Wilson and Phoenix Neitzeit were all on the field together for the first time.
The Bishops were not done scoring. Rieger shot again through the Allegheny Gator’s substitute keeper’s hands, this time after a play down the left side. The game ended in a 6-0 win for OWU.
“I was pleased with the win,” Martin said. ”Obviously, we were ready to play tonight. I think we’re getting mentally tough.”