The Heidelberg University men’s soccer team battled the Crusaders of Capital University in Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Quarterfinal action. Mayer Field was wet and slippery, and the chilling temperatures made for a wild matchup, but the Berg emerged victorious, 3-2.
Three different Student Princes netted goals against Capital within a seven-minute span.
Following a Crusaders goal that came off of a free kick opportunity, senior Ryan Smith (Roanoke, TX/Keller) recorded his seventh goal of the season. Smith’s goal was set up by a Chris Koczak (Springboro) cross from the left touchline.
“Ryan is a good student, and he is a great student-athlete, who gives 100% in the classroom and on the field. He is a leader both in the classroom and in our offensive front,” said 24-year head coach Brian Haley.
The assist marks Koczak’s second of the season and he is still the Berg’s leading scorer with nine goals in his freshman campaign.
Following Smith’s goal, sophomore Hamid Shariff (Columbus/Centennial) knocked in his fourth of the season in the 11th minute.
Almost exactly a minute later, fellow sophomore Nico Samaniego (Huron) netted the third Heidelberg goal giving the Berg a 3-1 lead. The goal is Samaneigo’s first of the year, which is accompanied by his four assists. Against the Crusaders, Samaneigo led the team with six shots, four of which were on goal.
As a unit, the Heidelberg underclassmen accounted for 14 of the Berg’s 20 shots. As a team, Heidelberg outshot Capital 20 to 15.
“I like the fact that we conceded a goal early then responded with three goals in the span of about five minutes,” said Haley. “There was a period of about 20 minutes where we looked very good attacking and honestly, it was some of the best attacking I have seen at Heidelberg in a long time,” Haley added.
The Crusaders netted their second goal in the 65th minute, but even with momentum on their side, there would be no equalizer.
Sophomore goalkeeper Matthew Stevens (South Lyon, MI) tallied five key saves for the Berg in his first career OAC Tournament match. Stevens has collected 86 total saves in his first year between the posts for Heidelberg.
“We knew Capital would come at us with everything from the start as well as at halftime but we did well,” said Haley. “But we are still a young team learning how to manage the game properly in different situation.”
With only three upperclassmen in the Berg’s starting eleven, the underclassmen have played well throughout a challenging season. Haley, in part believes that the Student Princes success is a product of these young players and their positive style of play.
“For a team picked ninth in the preseason poll, to finish fourth, go to the playoffs, and reach the semifinals is outstanding,” said Haley. “What is different from other years is that we have surrounded ourselves with positive players and we have developed a winning attitude because of that positivity, even though there is still work to be done,” Haley added.
“We know we have a big challenge up ahead," stated Haley. “Ohio Northern is a great team, regular season champions for the third time and dangerously talented everywhere on the field, but we’ll see what Friday brings.”
The Heidelberg men continue their run at an OAC title in Ada, Ohio on Friday, November 2. The match between the Berg and the Polar Bears of Ohio Northern University is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Ohio Northern earned the number one seed in the OAC Tournament, finishing their OAC schedule a perfect, 9-0. They did not compete on Wednesday, earning a bye into the semifinals.