By John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
Moments after Keuka College had won their 2014 season opener, longtime men's soccer coach Matt Tantalo had a message for the 26 student-athletes on the squad.
Yes, there were plenty of positives to take away from the 1-0 win over the University of Pitt-Bradford in the third annual Keuka College Lakefront Classic, but Keuka (1-0) need to learn how to close out games if they want to reach their vast potential this year.
Leading by a goal with less than a minute remaining in Friday night's contest at the Jephson Community Athletic Complex, Keuka allowed the Panthers (0-1) a wide-open shot on goal from 18 yards out, but junior Preston Vick (Kendall, N.Y./Kendall) leapt to his right to make the critical stop.
Seconds later, with the Panthers in full-on desperation mode, junior Matt Hey (Rushville, N.Y./Marcus Whitman) made a heads-up play while chasing down a loose ball in the Pitt-Bradford half of the field. With time winding down, rather than make a run on goal in an effort to tack on an insurance goal, Hey wisely took the ball into the corner, and the waning seconds ticked off the clock as the Wolfpack improved to 5-0 all-time in three Lakefront Classics.
The effort was not lost on Tantalo, who applauded his midfielder for making the smart play with the clock winding down.
Vick finished with five saves to earn the shutout, while junior co-captain Ben Schreiber (Hilton, N.Y./Hilton) provided all the scoring with his tally with 16:57 remaining in the opening half.
"It's all about just keeping your cool and understanding that it's just another shot in the game," Vick said of his late-game clutch saves, which also included back-to-back stops with 11 minutes remaining in the second half.
"You have to treat all the shots as the same and try to make a big save. Stay calm, cool collected and make sure that the guys around you have your back. For the entire team itself, the competition and having so much talent at every position, it helps push everyone to be the best they can be."
Schreiber made a nice run and nearly staked Keuka to a 1-0 lead eight minutes in, but his shot was pushed wide left of the goal.
The game remained scoreless until the 29th minute. Off a solid slotted ball from sophomore Paulin Kolodja (Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas), Schreiber turned and scored on an eight-yard shot into the center part of the goal that snuck underneath the outstretched hands of Pitt-Bradford goalie Colin Frownfelter.
"Paulin had been looking for me all day, and (on the goal) he put me in the box with the ball and I was able to cut it back on my left, which is right where I wanted it," Schreiber said of his game-winning tally.
"I put a shot on net and the goalie couldn't see it and it went through. It was a huge confidence builder for us to score first. We just needed to come out here and start ourselves off right. We got the goal fairly early on and we were able to settle in after that."
Pitt-Bradford nearly netted the equalizer one minute later. Bryan McCoy rifled a shot from 25 yards out that glanced off the crossbar and out of bounds, as Keuka maintained the lead.
With 11 minutes remaining, the Panthers had a pair of clean looks on goal off of a direct kick. But Vick stood tall and made back-to-back saves to preserve the shutout.
Keuka will next face D'Youville College, which tied Wells College 0-0 in overtime in the day's first contest, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night.
The Green and Gold won both games of last year's Lakefront Classic, beating Pitt-Bradford 3-1 and D'Youville 4-0. Keuka has now won all five Lakefront Classic contests.