Syracuse 0, VT 1
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Virginia Tech men's soccer reserve Bobby O'Brien (Williamsburg, Va.) scored the game-winning goal with 1:48 remaining in regulation to keep the Hokies' post-season hopes alive as Tech defeated Syracuse 1-0 Sunday afternoon on Moseley Field. With their fifth consecutive win, the Hokies improve to 10-5-1 on the year and 5-3-0 in conference play, while Syracuse falls to 7-7-2 overall, 3-5-1 in the BIG EAST.
Playing in front of the largest home crowd of the season in the Hokies' final home match, the two teams played a back-and-forth match that remained scoreless through 89 minutes of action. Sophomore Bailey Allman (Virginia Beach, Va.) unleashed a shot from close range but Syracuse goalkeeper Alim Karim (three saves) denied Allman's attempt. An Orangemen defender attempted to clear the ball, but O'Brien intercepted on the play and blasted a shot from 18 yards past a diving Karim.
"Bobby O'Brien, again, was able to come in off the bench and contribute, this time scoring the game-winner," head coach Oliver Weiss explained. "We reiterated that in our pre-game chat that we needed key reserves to step up and he did just that. This was a typical BIG EAST game," Weiss continued. "The match was tight and both teams had the chance to win."
Syracuse, who outshot Tech 15-12 in the match, had its best scoring opportunities in the second half. Less than two minutes into the second stanza Orangemen reserve Robert Alexander broke free behind the Tech defense on what appeared to be an uncontested path to the goal, but Tech goalkeeper Chase Harrison (Huntington, W.Va.) rushed out and wrestled the ball away from Alexander.
Syracuse threatened again with 24 minutes remaining after senior Ryan Hall beat a Tech defender, but senior Greg Medsker (Williamsburg, Va.) broke up the potential breakaway attempt allowing the Hokies to keep their shutout bid alive.
The Hokies counter-attacked with a scoring opportunity of their own in the 68th minute, but Tech came out empty-handed. Redshirt freshman Matt Bright (Chesapeake, Va.) squandered an open net opportunity off a throw-in by redshirt junior John Havas (Mechanicsburg, Pa.).
"They were knocking on the door quite a bit," Weiss stated. "Our midfielders, defenders, our goalkeeper, everyone chipped in on the defensive effort. It is always nice to get a shutout in a tough conference. You have to credit all the defenders in this one from right to left. Rob Smith, Keith Benderoth and Greg Medsker all playing in their last home game, along Harold Russell and Chase (Harrison) were all tremendous."
The game marked the final regular season home game for seven Tech seniors. Benderoth, Dustin Bond (Blacksburg, Va.), Medsker, Drew Myers (High Point, N.C.), Eric Prigot (Park Ridge, N.J.), Karl Schlegel (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Smith were all recognized during pre-game introductions for their commitment and dedication to the Virginia Tech men's soccer program. Bond and Schlegel each started their first game of the season and made the most of their opportunity. In the first 15 minutes, Schlegel connected with Bond twice on dangerous scoring opportunites but both shots by Bond sailed wide.
The Hokies will travel to New England for a BIG EAST match with No. 5 ranked Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Tech will wrap-up the 2002 season on the road Friday night with a conference match with No. 20 Notre Dame.
Weiss remarked, "The BIG EAST is where you want to be if you want to compete at the highest level and are always challenged. If you don't show up with you're 'A' game, you are not going to win. That's what this conference is all about. We are very fortunate to be 5-3 (in the BIG EAST). Now we are really excited about our road trip."
Goals by period 1 2 F
Syracuse (7-7-2, 3-5-1) 0 0 - 0
Virginia Tech (10-5-1, 5-3-0) 0 1 - 1
1. 88:12 VT O'BRIEN, Bobby (unassisted)
Shots: Syracuse 15, Virginia Tech 12
Saves: Syracuse 4 (KARIM, Alim 3; TEAM 1), Virginia Tech 6 (HARRISON, Chase 6)