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Off To A Good Start – College Soccer Coast To Coast

The first few games of the 2016 season are now history.  Several programs across the country got off to a noteworthy start with a solid foundation upon which they can build. Whether or not they are able to keep the resulting momentum alive remains to be seen. College Soccer News took a look at what several teams accomplished and what is next on their schedule.  

Cleveland State – Ali Kazemaini's Vikings opened the 2016 season with a 3-0 momentum and confidence building win at home over  defending Atlantic 10 champion Dayton behind goals from freshman forward Lawrence Karpeh and a single goal by senior defender Sergio Manesio.  Cleveland State recorded their second win of the weekend when they came from two goals down to defeat Robert Morris 4-2.  Freshman forward Gabriel Pewu scored twice in that one with Dan Koniarczyk and Hesham Hammouda each contributing a single score.  For his effort, Pewu was named the Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week. The Vikings will seek to keep their winning streak intact but they have a huge challenge in front of them when they travel to Winston-Salem on Saturday to square off with highly regarded Wake Forest out of the ACC. 


Stetson – The Hatters opened the 2016 season on the road and produced two solid results.  They opened the season with a 2-1 upset win in overtime against VCU at Sportsbackers Stadium in Richmond, Virginia.  Interim head coach Jared Vock stated, "It is a very good win for us against a team that I anticipate will have a very good year." He added, "It's another example of where our guys didn't quit. There were moments where VCU was in control and we never quit." Sophomore Midfielder Luke Ferreira netted the first Stetson goal and freshman forward Gabriel Diniz produced the game-winner in overtime with Ferreira contributing the assist.  Stetson followed the win up with a 1-1 draw with Old Dominion at the ODU Soccer Complex in Norfolk. Senior goalkeeper Paul Ladwig, who was named the ASUN Defensive Player of the Week, had a brilliant ten save evening.  Ian McCauley scored the lone goal for the Hatters with a double assist from Ferreira and Diniz.  Weather permitting, Stetson is slated to host Georgia Southern on Friday and UNC Ashville on Sunday.

Siena – The Saints began the season with an impressive win. Under the direction of head coach Cesar Markovic, they pulled off one of the big upsets of the opening weekend of the 2016 college soccer season when they rolled to a 4-1 win over the defending Northeast Conference Champion LIU Brooklyn in the friendly confines of the Siena Turf Field. Junior striker Alexander Tejera, who was named the MAAC Offensive Player of the Week, converted two penalty kicks and junior defender Milorad Sobot and freshman striker Matt Crisafulli each contributed a goal to round out a productive evening of soccer for Siena. Junior goalkeeper Aleksa Radosavljevic had two saves in his first appearance between the pipes for the Saints.  The Saints were subsequently defeated on Tuesday evening 2-1 when they traveled to Durham to tangle with New Hampshire. Senior midfielder David Itoafa who has been a starter for the Saints for the past three seasons scored Siena's lone goal in the contest. Siena will seek to get back on track and into the win column when they return to Loudonville to host the Binghamton University Bearcats on Friday. Binghamton will enter the contest with a 2-1 win over Canisius College and a 0-0 draw with a good George Washington University team under their belts. The 2009 season was the last in which Binghamton was unbeaten after their first two matches. 

Virginia Tech – The early returns indicate that this looks to be a much more competitive Virginia Tech team than the one that Mike Brizendine put on the pitch last year. The Hokies began the season in style making their presence known right out of the gate with a very impressive 1-0 win on the road in overtime against a very good Ohio State team.  Forward Marcelo Acuna who transferred to Virginia Tech from Houston Baptist University converted a header after receiving a pass from redshirt senior defender Alessandro Mion to give the Hokies the edge they needed to secure the win. Junior goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard had three saves to record the shutout in goal.  The Hokies followed that victory with a 3-0 win over Oakland with Acuna, midfielder Andre Thomas and forward Elias Tamburini contributing the goals. With UCSB, Ohio State and Oakland in the Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic Tournament field, who would have thought that Virginia Tech would be the team that would take the tournament trophy home. The Hokies have three difficult contests in front of them beginning with this Friday night when they host South Florida. They then travel to the nation's capitol to tangle with Georgetown followed by a road trip to South Bend to open ACC play against  Notre Dame. 

Saint Mary's California – A tie is not a win but you have to be impressed with the competitiveness that Saint Mary's showed in their opening contests of the 2016 campaign.  The Gaels out of the West Coast Conference showed a lot of grit and potential when they opened the season on the road at Berkeley and came away with a 2-2 draw with host California.  Senior Alex Braman headed in the first goal and senior defender Rafael Sanchez converted a penalty kick in the second stanza to secure the tie. Junior Andrew Konstantino had eight saves between the pipes for Saint Mary's. The Gaels then tied defending national champion Stanford on the road 2-2 to conclude a solid opening weekend of play. Konstantino had seven saves in goal in the contest with the Cardinal.  Saint Mary's head coach Adam Cooper stated, "For the second straight match, we played well and could have easily come away with a win.  However in both matches , we gave away leads."  Cooper added, "Some of that is to be expected with a young team, but that is the area we are going to need to improve." All things considered, it was a very solid start for the Gaels against two very competitive Pac-12 teams.

Niagara –  Purple Eagles head coach Bill Boyle began his tenure at Niagara in style with a 4-0 win over Robert Morris.  Senior defender Shiquan Lowe opened the scoring for Niagara when he alertly deposited  the rebound of a missed penalty kick into the back of the net.  Freshman midfielder Mackenzie Roach, who was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week, began his collegiate career in style with a two goal effort.  Ditto that for freshman forward Absalom Solorio Villalpando who contributed a goal and a helper.  Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper had a three save evening to anchor a very solid Purple Eagles defensive evening.  Niagara will now take their game to Florida where they will square off with Florida Atlantic University on Friday and a very competitive Florida International University squad on Sunday.

Cal State Northridge – CSUN was off and running in a 2-1 season opening win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes at Matador Soccer Field.  Junior forward Papi Diouf netted the Matadors' first score a mere eight seconds into the contest when junior midfielder Emmanuel Usen Jr. played the opening kick off back to senior midfielder Juan Fernando Samayoa who sent a ball forward over the top of the Tulsa defense to an on-rushing Diouf who controlled it and decisively drove it into the far netting. Sophomore forward Nicholas Grinde from Oslo, Norway netted the second CSUN goal. The Matadors now travel to Albuquerque to square off with a New Mexico squad that will be hungry for a win after coming out on the short end of a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Indiana and a 1-0 loss to Notre Dame last weekend. CSUN will tangle with Air Force on Sunday.

Mercer – The Bears opened the season with a 1-0 win over in-state rival Georgia State. Senior midfielder Conner Antley netted the lone score and the difference maker in the contest when he converted a penalty kick. Freshman goalkeeper JR DeRose from Peoria, Illinois recorded the shutout in goal for Mercer. The Bears then traveled to Columbia, South Carolina and topped the South Carolina Gamecocks 3-2 in overtime. Sophomore midfielder Kobe Perez, junior midfielder Will Bagrou, and sophomore midfielder Jake Mezei netted the goals for Mercer. The win was Mercer's first ever over the Gamecocks and their first over a ranked opponent since 2010. Senior goalkeeper Jeremy Booth from Norcross, Georgia had six saves in goal for Mercer in the win over South Carolina. The Bears will seek to extend their streak when they face Winthrop on Friday.

Oral Roberts – The Golden Eagles opened the 2016 campaign with a solid 2-0 win on the road over Incarnate Word. Redshirt senior forward Matthew Rogers scored Oral Roberts' first goal when he converted a header out of a free kick served in by teammate junior midfielder Santiago Riveros. Redshirt senior defender Isaac Fraley netted the Golden Eagles second goal with Riveros again contributing the helper. Redshirt freshman Parker Johnson had five saves in goal to anchor a bend but don't break ORU defense. Oral Roberts secured their second win of the 2016 season when they defeated Michigan State 2-0 powered by goals from sophomore midfielder Alex Harris and junior midfielder Corey Cantor.  It provided a very solid foundation open which the Golden Eagles can build.

Bowling Green – The Falcons rolled to a 4-0 season opening win over IUPUI with a balanced attack that featured goals from sophomore midfielder Vincent Giannini, senior forward Joe Sullivan, freshman forward Chris Brennan, and sophomore defender Moe Mustafa.  Senior forward Pat Flynn and senior defender Jacob Roth each contributed two assists in the victory over IUPUI.  Freshman Anthony Mwembia made four saves to record the shutout in goal for the Falcons.  Bowling Green picked up win number two with a 3-1 victory over Appalachian State University behind two goals from Flynn, who has led Bowling Green in scoring for the past two seasons, and a single goal from junior Keaton Reynolds.  Giannini contributed two helpers in the contest.  Mwembia recorded two saves in goal to record his second shutout of the season to date. The Falcons will seek to pick up win number three on the season when they host a good Marshall University team on Friday that is 1-1-0 to date after topping Detroit 3-1 in their last outing. 

High Point – The Panthers dominated East Tennessee State recording a 5-1 win in their season opener. Freshman forward Siggi Benonysson, who was named the Big South Freshman of the Week, led the attack with two goals and an assist. The win was High Point's first over ETSU in three meetings and their first season opening victory since the 2012 campaign.  Redshirt freshman forward Justen Shear, freshman midfielder Ryan Inman, and redshirt defender Erien Campbell also contributed a goal each in the win.  High Point will seek to keep the momentum going when they host Detroit on Friday and St. Bonaventure on Sunday.

New Hampshire – UNH began the season with a convincing 3-1 win over Bryant led on the offensive side of the ball by sophomore forward Alex Valencia from Tracy, California who contributed a goal and an assist. Redshirt freshman forward Kyle Brewster and freshman defender Ben Gleditsch also netted a single goal for the Cats.  New Hampshire followed that win up with a solid 2-1 victory over Siena College Tuesday night with goals from senior midfielder Chris Wingate, the 2015 America East Midfielder of the Year, and sophomore forward Chris Arling.  UNH will travel to tangle with a Rhode Island team on Saturday in Kingston that is also off to a good start. The Rams are  2-0-0 beginning their season with two wins for the first time since the 2000 campaign.

Colgate – The Raiders begin the season with a 2-0-0 mark. They topped Loyola Marymount 1-0 with a penalty kick converted by senior forward Ethan Kutler the difference maker in the contest. The goal was Kutler's twenty-fourth career goal during a highly productive tenure to date at Colgate. Senior goalkeeper Ricky Brown who has been the Raiders starting netminder since arriving on campus in 2013 had a one save evening to anchor an impressive Colgate defensive effort. Raider head coach Erik Ronning who enters his 12th season at the helm of the program summed up the evening when he stated, "I don't think we played our best soccer and we still have a long way to go, but to get a result against a good team like LMU is a great start to the year."  Colgate followed that win up with a 2-0 win over Massachusetts with Kutler again netting what proved to be the game-winning goal in the second half of the contest with an assist from junior midfielder Jared Stroud. Freshman midfielder Kentaro Morrison from Tokyo, Japan netted the insurance goal less than two minutes later to pretty much seal the win for the Raiders. Brown had a three save evening to record his second shutout in goal in as many contests. Things don't get any easier for Colgate who now travels to tangle with a very good Syracuse team on Thursday night followed by a road trip to face Monmouth on Sunday.

NJIT – Fernando Barboto began his tenure as the head coach at NJIT on a positive note with a 1-0 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. Junior midfielder Mamadou Guirassy artfully chipped the game-winner into the back of the frame late in the second stanza after being on the receiving end of a long pass from freshman teammate midfielder Andrew Nino. Sophomore Victor Pujades earned his first shutout in goal for NJIT after a solid six save performance. The HIghlanders also topped Manhattan 1-0 with freshman forward Rene White from Bloomfield, New Jersey providing the game-winner when he deftly slotted a shot into the right corner of the goal after receiving a pass from junior linkman Jack Flanagan . Pujades had one save in goal to record his second shutout of the young season. The two wins marks the first time that NJIT has ever opened the season with wins in their first two contests. The Highlanders will try to make it three wins in a row when they travel to the nation's capitol to square off with George Washington on Friday at 2 p.m. 

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