PHILADELPHIA – Paced by a pair of brilliant offensive opportunities and its first shutout of the 2018 campaign, the Saint Joseph's men's soccer squad earned a 2-0 victory over Navy on Tuesday evening on Sweeney Field. The win marked the Hawks' first in program history over the Midshipmen in the 10-match series dating back to 1966.
With their fourth win in their last five matches, SJU improves to 4-2-0 overall, which includes a perfect 3-0-0 mark on Hawk Hill, while Navy falls to 1-5-1.
"They've bought in," beamed head coach Don D'Ambra of his squad following SJU's fourth win of the season, which already surpasses SJU's total number of wins from last year. "There's a really good energy level and a good commitment from this team. These guys are very hungry. They're humble and each willing to do their part, and they're buying into the 'team'."
For the second time in his last three starts, junior forward Leon Maric struck the back of the net within the first 10 minutes of play, this time in the ninth minute (8:10) to put the Hawks up early. The play unfolded as sophomore midfielder Alvin Dahn fired off a shot on goal that was deflected back into play by Navy goalkeeper Ian Bramblett. In the right place at the right time, Maric found the ball at his left foot and rocketed off his team-leading fourth goal of the season.
SJU's second goal would also come as the follow-up of an initial offensive play as senior midfielder Derek MacKinnon hit the crossbar; jis shot ricocheted back out to sophomore midfielder Ritchie Barry, and Barry made no mistake of hitting the back of the net on a header for his second goal in as many matches.
"I feel like I've really found my form," said Barry. "Usually after you get that first goal, you get that confidence, and then the game just comes easier. I've been getting in good positions all season and now it's just putting the ball into the back of the net. I'm just really happy to be contributing for the team."
Saint Joseph's defensive unit of senior defender Eddie McCusker, redshirt junior defender Mike Fornaro, and sophomores David Grana and Daniel Morales allowed just four shots on goal on the night, marking the second match in a row in which the back line has allowed less than five shots on net.
Freshman goalkeeper Joseph Boehm (4-2-0) handled all four of those shots on goal en route to his first collegiate shutout. Two of those shots came in the final minutes, including an absolute laser off the foot of Navy's Toni Adewole in the 90th minute, but Boehm made the highlight-reel stop.
"I'm beyond ecstatic right now," said Boehm following his first clean sheet. "My team has blocked how many opportunities in the box, and there's one save left? I had to come up big for them. We wanted that shutout more than anything, and the guys worked so hard the whole game, so I knew I had to come up and do something big."
For the match, Saint Joseph's and Navy were equal in shots (16-16), with the Hawks landing six on frame in contrast to the Midshipmen's four.
Saint Joseph's returns to action at Manhattan (5-1-0) this Saturday, September 15. Kickoff at Gaelic Park in Riverdale, N.Y. is set for 7:00 p.m. The Jaspers have won their last two contests by a combined score of 7-2.
"These guys have a winning mentality and are willing to put the work in, which is a really good sign early on," added D'Ambra. "We just need to continue to get better, and guys need to continue to stay motivated and hungry."
MATCH NOTES: Saint Joseph's snaps a nine-match losing streak against Navy, improving to 1-9-0 all-time in the series... The Hawks are averaging 2.33 goals per match and allowing just 1.33 goals per match through six outings... Junior forward Leon Maric was forced to leave the match in the 24th minute, which allowed for freshman forward Frantz Pierrot to see a season-high 52 minutes off the bench and for junior forward John Fritz to make his season debut.