PHILADELPHIA – It took some time to get going, but once it did, the Hawk offense was firing on all cylinders as the Saint Joseph’s men’s soccer team routed VMI, 5-0, at Sweeney Field on Wednesday night.
With the win, the Hawks remain unbeaten at home, posting a 4-0-0 mark while tallying 15 goals on their home pitch.
“This is our home, and we don’t want to lose here,” senior captain Eddie McCusker said of the Hawks’ run of form at Sweeney Field. “It’s like a fortress here; I think the fans really help out, and we have a lot of support there.”
“I think the guys get motivated by the crowd and there’s a comfort level (playing at home),” head coach Don D’Ambra said. “We’re not playing particularly poorly on the road, but you just have to find ways to get yourself motivated and bring a little bit extra. We’re a young team, and we’re not far off, but I think they just feed off of the home energy.”
After a cagey start for both sides, Saint Joseph’s (5-3-0) found its breakthrough when junior Leon Maric volleyed senior Derek MacKinnon’s hard cross into the net for the game’s first goal in the 28th minute. The goal is Maric’s team-leading fifth of the season.
Sophomores Aidan Watkins and Alvin Dahn connected three and a half minutes later, as Watkins chipped a long ball into the box and Dahn ran in free on goal before finishing past the Keydets’ Broden Schull for his fourth of the season and a 2-0 halftime lead.
VMI (0-7-0) came out with a spark in the second half, but it was the Hawks who would strike in the 55th minute as sophomore Ritchie Barry beat a defender down the left flank before dragging a low shot across the face of the goal and past Schull for his third goal of the season and third in the last four games.
McCusker got in on the act in the 77th minute as he found himself on the end of a long cross from sophomore Alan Kahlenbeck; the captain nodded it into the upper 90 to extend the Hawks’ lead to 4-0.
Kahlenbeck would add another helper in the 81st minute as he pinged a pass to senior Kyle Lochbihler, who found junior Matt Mullock for a diving header and a 5-0 advantage. The assist was the first point of Lochbihler’s collegiate career.
The goal also gave the Hawks their highest offensive output in a match since a 5-1 win at Marist on September 21, 2014.
It was a comprehensive team victory for the Hawks, who outshot the Keydets by a 23-1 margin. Schull made five saves on the night, while neither freshman Joseph Boehm nor redshirt freshman Nick DeShong – who made his collegiate debut in the 71st minute – was called on to make a save.
The effort was a much-needed bounce-back after the Hawks fell at Manhattan, 2-0, on Saturday night.
“Our offense was not really in sync against Manhattan,” D’Ambra said. “We watched a lot of film and had a lot of good combination play tonight. We have a tough match at Fairfield on the road, and then we start conference play, so it’s good for these guys to remind themselves that they can put the ball in the net.”
“We came out of [the Manhattan game] with a result we didn’t really want, and this week, we harped on getting back to being positive, getting back to our team play,” McCusker said. “We’ve been scoring a lot of goals this year, and it comes down to us playing for each other and trusting each other on the ball. To come out and score some goals, it’s good for the team morale.”
The Hawks will hit the road for their next two matches, with a tilt at Fairfield slated for September 22 before the Atlantic 10 opener at Duquesne on September 29. Both matches are set to kick off at 7:00 p.m.