Colonials record first win thanks to strong second half

The+2-1+win+Saturday+was+their+first+win+of+the+season%2C+and+will+play+Milwaukee+next+Saturday+Photo+credit%3A+Evelyn+Luthringer

The 2-1 win Saturday was their first win of the season, and will play Milwaukee next Saturday Photo credit: Evelyn Luthringer

By Evan Basista, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– The Colonials men’s soccer team recorded their first win in their first Horizon League game this afternoon at the North Athletic Complex, beating the Northern Kentucky Norse by a score of 2-1.

The Norse entered this game with a 2-2-0 record, with a 6-0 win in their previous game. It was a tall task for a Colonials team coming off three straight losses to start the season, but they were able to achieve it.

Both sides played tight defense early on in this one, but Northern Kentucky could break through first. Driving through the middle of the field, NKU midfielder Deryn Armstrong got a shot past RMU goalie Friedrich Petrelli to put the Norse up 1-0 in the 17th minute.

The Colonials got their first good chance in the 23rd minute when a corner kick led to sustained pressure near the NKU goal, but the Norse eventually broke it up. The teams continued their tight defense throughout the rest of the first half, which showed when Northern Kentucky was able to create an odd-man break in the 38th minute off of a turnover at midfield. The RMU defense, however, stayed strong and denied the opportunity along with the corner kick shortly after.

RMU had a free kick right before the end of the half, but no chances came from it. Entering halftime, the Norse led 1-0 and held a 2-1 advantage in shots on goal.

Coming out of the break, the Colonials looked much better. When asked after the game about any halftime adjustments he made, coach Jason O’Keefe said, “The group has been working really hard. They’ve been trying and competing, but we’ve just been a little bit short in some areas of execution. They regrouped at halftime, started executing a little bit more, and played with some composure.”

In the 50th minute, RMU had an excellent chance to sail just over the crossbar. They notched their second shot of the day in the 56th minute, but NKU goalie Nic Lemen stopped it. The Colonials’ hard work finally paid off in the 59th minute, when forward Hugo Kadima sent a shot past Lemen to tie the score at one.

In the 65th minute, both teams had a good opportunity at either end of the pitch, but neither could capitalize, and the score remained tied. RMU had another free kick in the 75th minute, but the score again remained tied. Northern Kentucky’s Wes Collins received a yellow card in the 77th minute, but the Colonials could not capitalize on the opportunity.

However, not long after, RMU was finally able to break the tie when a good chance from forwarding Shane McMillan led to a corner kick and eventually a goal by defender Kelvin Ramirez.

The score was 2-1 in favor of the Colonials in the 78th minute, but the Norse had a great chance just two minutes later the RMU defense denied that. Northern Kentucky again looked to strike in the 87th minute when they had a free kick, but it was quickly broken up. Even with those opportunities, the Colonials continued to drive play overall in the second half. They got a stellar chance of their own in the 89th minute with a mini-breakaway, but an even better save by Lemen kept the score at 2-1, where it would stay for the remainder of the game.

Coach O’Keefe added, “Goals change games, so when we got one, we got some momentum and were able to find the game-winner. I’m really pleased. I’m proud and happy for the guys to get some reward for all of their hard work. We played a really challenging schedule early on to prepare us for the Horizon League. Now we recover and turn our focus to Milwaukee.”

If there was one thing that stood out in this game, it was the number of substitutions. Even with the lineups resetting after halftime, RMU had 21 total subs, while Northern Kentucky had 13.

“For us, you’ve gotta earn everything. Every guy that hits the field has earned the opportunity.” O’Keefe said. “We have a lot of guys that are working and executing, being coachable, and being great teammates. We have to reward them, so we’ve been playing a lot of guys throughout the preseason and the first three non-league games. I think we’re a pretty good team. We’ve just gotta keep getting better.”

“The game was highly contested,” O’Keefe added. “Northern Kentucky did a lot of very challenging things for us. They’re a good team. The league is wide open. Every game is gonna be a dogfight like that. Fortunately enough, one team will come out with a win or a draw. I think the league is going to be highly contested. I’m excited to get those points and start off on the right foot.”

The Colonials’ next match-up is at Milwaukee on Saturday at 4 pm.