Men’s Soccer Keeps Postseason Hopes Alive

Dylan Holmes

After a string of disappointing performances in conference play, the men’s soccer team ended the week on a high note, regaining control of its postseason destiny in the process. After a heartbreaking 1–0 loss to the Kenyon College Lords last Saturday, the Yeomen secured an important North Coast Athletic Conference win on Wednesday, Oct. 12, ending with a 2–1 road triumph over the Denison University Big Red. The result gave Oberlin a 2–3 record in the NCAC and 5–9 overall.

The Yeomen struggled on both ends of the field against Kenyon. Oberlin was only able to generate four shots — none of which were on goal — while the Lords took 24 and challenged sophomore goalkeeper Brandt Rentel on six different occasions. Kenyon finally broke through in the 25th minute, as Rentel was unable to redirect a shot that snuck inside the far post.

The Lords’ style of play presented Oberlin with tough matchups across the field.

“Kenyon’s a really big, physical and fast team,” junior midfielder Ed Vitoria said. “Teams who are that physical and fast exploit us the most. We just could never really find a rhythm.”

The loss set the Yeomen back in the quest to reach the NCAC playoffs. To secure a spot in the four-team final tournament, Oberlin knew they would have to win four out of their last five contests — three against higher-ranked foes.

The added pressure brought about a change in the team’s mindset as it prepared to face Denison.

“We realized it was do-or-die for us,” said Vitoria. “We knew it was a dire situation.”

This newfound urgency was immediately apparent in the first half against Denison, as the Yeomen netted their first goal within just 22 minutes. Senior midfielder Oliver Miller-Farrell beat the keeper assisted by a deft touch pass from junior midfielder Matt Capozzi.

Miller-Farrell’s sixth goal of the season provided a much-needed early cushion to the visitors. Oberlin’s lead disappeared just before halftime, however, when misfortune struck the Yeomen defense. A Denison throw-in on the Oberlin half of the field led to an Oberlin goal and knotted the score at one as the teams entered the break.

But with their postseason lives at stake, the Yeomen were not discouraged by the setback and set the tone early in the second half. Junior forward Justin Griffiths picked a perfect time to notch his first goal of the season in the 55th minute off an assist by Miller-Farrell. The score gave the Yeomen a 2–1 lead and also gave Miller-Farrell 25 assists in his career, a school record.

After the goal, Oberlin continued to control the pace of play and thwarted any chance of a Big Red comeback with sound and safe play.

“Denison wasn’t a team that was going to create chances for themselves,” Griffiths said. “They were waiting for us to make a mistake and capitalize on [it]. We forced them to create something [in the second half] and they couldn’t generate any offense.”

The Big Red only mustered one more shot on goal during the second half, but Rentel corralled the threat to seal the win.

Next up, the team returns home for another crucial conference game this Saturday, senior day, as they square off against Hiram College at 7 p.m.. The team will honor its six seniors before the start of the match.