After their impressive 3-2 overtime victory against Lock Haven recently, the Shepherd University men’s soccer team gained a regional ranking for the first time this year.
On Sept. 30 the Rams rallied past Lock Haven in dramatic fashion to gain the 3-2 win courtesy of some late game heroics, once again, from Kyle Ransom. With only half of the season complete, Ransom leads the Mountain East Conference with an astounding three game-winning goals.
Lock Haven jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Jacob Oldaker beat the Rams’ defense and scored off an assist from Colt Brackbill at the 11:30 mark. Yet prior to the halftime break, Shepherd managed to tie the game when senior defender Michael Cella scored on a free kick in the 34th minute.
At the 59:31 mark Lock Haven once again regained the lead when Jesse Smith tallied a goal off a quick pass from Oldaker. Shepherd still refused to back down and they again answered back when senior forward Ricky Johnson scored on a cross from Ransom to tie the game in the 73rd minute. Despite several opportunities for a game-winning goal by both sides after that, the two teams remained deadlocked at 2-2 through the end of regulation time. Just minutes into the overtime session, at the 92:50 mark, Kyle Ransom came through in the clutch, scoring the game-winning goal. Freshman forward Nate Howard made an amazing pass to Ransom in order to set up the game-winning goal and he was subsequently credited with an assist.
It should be noted that Lock Haven held a 19-8 advantage in shots as the Rams had limited opportunities and they lacked offensive production for most of the match. In addition, the Shepherd junior goalkeeper Alex Aleshire made 6 saves in the game, all of which were critical to ensuring a Rams victory. He made a crucial save when he stopped a penalty kick from going in the net with 9:17 left in regulation to force overtime.
As of Oct. 1, the Rams had a 5-3-1 overall record on the season and were ranked ninth in the NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Division II Men’s Atlantic Poll. Moreover, the team is sitting fourth in the Mountain East Conference men’s soccer standings. Despite the new regional ranking and a much needed win against fourth ranked Lock Haven, the Rams still commonly find themselves struggling on the defensive side of the ball. They lead the Mountain East Conference, by far, in goals allowed with 22 so far this season. Furthermore, opponents are scoring an average of 2.75 goals per game and that is also the highest, in regards to that statistical category, among MEC teams.
On the other hand, the Rams’ offense hasn’t been stellar either and statistically speaking, they are one of the worst offensive teams in the MEC. Shepherd is averaging barely 9 shots per game and they have managed only 37 shots on goal so far this season. In addition, the Rams are averaging a mere 1.222 goals per game, with just 11 goals scored after nine games played. In order to remain highly ranked and have further success in the second half of the season, the team will need to improve their play on both sides of the ball.
The Rams were looking for the momentum from the thrilling overtime win against Lock Haven to continue into their match against Mountain East Conference rival Urbana on Oct. 5. Urbana has struggled for much of the season and they came into the game with only 2 wins however they were able to outplay and outmatch the Rams and they ultimately upset Shepherd by the score of 1-0.
Both teams were evenly matched throughout much of the first half and the game remained scoreless until the 44th minute when Mike McFarland scored on a header off a free kick from his teammate Lewis Dunne. That would prove to be the decisive game-winning goal as Shepherd was unable to rally and tie the game after the halftime break. It was another match full of offensive struggles for the Rams as they managed only 10 shots in the contest compared to Urbana’s 21 shots. Ricky Johnson led the team with 2 shots, both of which were shots on goal, and Ransom recorded one shot.
The Shepherd University men’s soccer team play Concord University at home on Oct. 8 and they travel to play the nationally ranked University of Charleston Golden Eagles on Oct. 11.