PHILADELPHIA – Redshirt freshman defender Ben Cochran scored his first collegiate goal in the 40th minute and senior goalkeeper Greg O'Connell made a career-high nine saves to lead the Saint Joseph's men's soccer squad to three points with an eventual 2-0 win over George Mason in Atlantic 10 action on Sweeney Field on Saturday evening. With their first win since September 6, the Hawks improve to 3-6-3 (1-1-0 A-10) while the Patriots fall to 5-4-2 (0-2-1 A-10).
"It was a great win for the guys," said head coach Don D'Ambra following the match. "Huge game for us. To bounce back [from Dayton loss], to come home and beat George Mason and get three points in the A-10, that is huge for our guys. The confidence has really grown from our last few games. We're starting to score some goals, and that's something we had been lacking."
Cochran's goal began on a pure hustle play by junior defender Eddie McCusker. McCusker saved an errant ball from going out of play and passed it back in toward the six-yard line; Cochran got the ball at his feet and poked his first collegiate score into the back of the net to send the Hawks into the halftime break with a 1-0 advantage.
Just 10:53 into the second half, senior forward Isaac Agyapong took off on a breakaway and fed the ball up to freshman midfielder Alan Kahlenbeck, who drew a foul inside the box to set up a penalty kick opportunity for the Crimson and Gray.
Senior midfielder Matt Crawford calmy put away the penalty shot for his sixth goal of the season, doubling SJU's advantage entering the final 44:07.
On the defensive end, O'Connell's nine saves earned SJU its second clean sheet of the year and the senior's seventh of his career. O'Connell made seven saves in the second-half alone, including back-to-back, point-blank stops on clear goal-scoring opportunities from George Mason's Raheem Lawal in the 73rd minute. O'Connell improves to 3-6-2 overall and 1-1-0 in league play.
For the match, George Mason owned a 23-13 edge in shots, including a 15-5 advantage in the second half, but O'Connell handled the Patriots' nine shots on goal.
Also of note, junior midfielder Lou Vilotti nearly got the scoring going for the Hawks in the 39th minute, grazing the cross bar just minutes before Cochran would put away SJU's first score of the match.
"We had good defensive pressure, a complete game offensively, and we created a lot of good chances," added D'Ambra. "I was really proud of our guys here today."
Saint Joseph's returns to action this Wednesday, October 11 against UMass (8-2-2, 2-0-0 A-10). Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. on Sweeney Field. The Minutemen enter the match with conference wins over Saint Louis, 3-1, and Duquesne, 5-0.
MATCH NOTES: With Saturday's win, the Hawks even out the all-time series to 2-2-2 and 2-1-2 under the direction of head coach Don D'Ambra... With his nine saves in Saturday's win, senior goalkeeper Greg O'Connell has now made 128 career saves, which ranks 10th in SJU's program history... O'Connell also earned his seventh career shutout, which ranks ninth in SJU's program history... With four shots in Saturday's win, senior midfielder Matt Crawford has now fired off 129 shots in his career, which ranks 10th in SJU's program history.