The chances were there for the Keene State College men’s soccer team to break the scoreless tie in Saturday’s matchup against Roger Williams University, but ultimately the Owls’ season opener came to a close as a 0-0 draw at Dr. Ron Butcher Field.
The first half was sluggish, maybe in part because Keene State has not played a competitive game for almost two years, and the Owls did not create many scoring chances. But the Keene State defense stepped up and held Roger Williams scoreless through the first 45 minutes.
“We knew the first half was going to be ugly,” said Keene State head coach Rick Scott. “We hadn’t played for so long. But we made a few adjustments at halftime.”
And the adjustments showed, as Keene State flipped the script in the final 45 minutes of regulation.
All of a sudden, the Owls were getting good looks at the net while continuing to limit the Roger Williams offense.
Unfortunately for Keene State, none of the opportunities found the back of the net.
Junior Mbambi Mbungu had the best looks of regulation in the tail end of the second half, hitting opposite sides of the outside of the net on back-to-back possessions.
Then, senior Vance Bates put up a free kick with less than two minutes to go in the second half, but shot it wide and the game stayed scoreless as regulation wrapped up.
Keene State’s momentum carried over into the overtime periods. The Owls had a corner kick in the first minute of the second overtime period with a chance to put it away, but despite a well-placed kick from junior Noah Spaulding, the ball never got to the net.
With seven minutes to go in the second overtime period, Mbungu had the best scoring opportunity by either team in the entire game, getting a strong foot on the ball right in front of the net, but Roger Williams’ sophomore goalie Jack Avellar handled the point-blank shot with a game-saving stop.
Keene State had a couple more opportunities in the waning minutes of extra time — but ran out of time.
“I thought we responded very well in the second half and the overtimes,” Scott said. “I was very happy with how we played, both offensively and defensively. I’m proud of the way they played. They stepped up and gave us a good effort. And their attitude was different in the second half. They came out to play and they did a nice job.
“We were more patient in the second half with the ball,” Scott continued. “We kept the ball in the midfield more. We have some speed up front, but you have to work it up to those guys. You can’t just kick it and hope those guys get to it.”
The key moving forward? More patience around the net, Scott said.
“We had some opportunities to make that one more pass and it would’ve been part of the combination play that we work on,” Scott said. “We’ll make better decisions as the year goes on. We’re not even close to where we can be. We’re happy with the effort, we’re excited about our guys, their attitude, their work ethic.”
Owls falls to Brandeis to wrap up Home Depot Classic
Khalil Winder netted the golden goal with 12 seconds remaining in the first overtime to lift Brandeis University to a 1-0 win over host Keene State College in the final game of the Keene State College/Home Depot Classic on Sunday night at Dr. Ron Butcher Field.
A tight defensive battle saw the Judges outshoot the Owls 12-8, but Brandeis held a significant advantage in shots on goal (7-0) and corner kicks (6-2). Anthony Pasicuto made six saves in his first start of the season for Keene State. Mbambi Mbungu shot wide for the Owls in the sixth minute, while Pasicuto stopped Brandeis’ John Loo in the 21st.
Benny Tamzarian went the closest for the Owls with a curling effort just before halftime, and Henry Cummings’ follow up was also wide as the teams went into the break scoreless. Pasciuto was called upon again to make another stop, this one on Jaylen Morris, as the second period got underway. The teams traded several fouls through the second half, as four yellow cards were awarded in the second stanza, two for each team.
As the game progressed into overtime, a loose ball in the box was pounced upon by Winder, who rifled it into the net for his first goal of the season.
Keene State (0-1-1) is off until Saturday, when the Owls will host Western New England University at 1 p.m.