The Emerson men's soccer players knew they had a difficult task ahead of them as 15-1 Western New England College (WNEC) stormed into town. The Lions hoped to play their game and slow down a tough Golden Bears squad, ranked 15th in the nation as of last Saturday.
WNEC overcame a gritty Lions attack, however, and pulled away with a sound 5-0 victory.
"We knew they were the best team we had faced this year," said junior Cody Schram, the Lions' co-captain.
In order to face such a formidable opponent, the Lions entered the game with a detailed plan to defeat the Golden Bears, said Head Coach Jared Scarpaci.
"We used a four-five-one style of offense," Scarpaci said.
This type of attack involves using four forwards and five midfielders and often results in more scoring, according to Scarpaci.
"We didn't want to let them score in the first 10 minutes," said Schram, who noted that in its last two games the team allowed goals toward the beginning of the contests that put Emerson in early holes.
The Lions succeeded in this plan and held WNEC scoreless for the first 21 minutes. With 23:37 left to play in the first half, however, WNEC struck, sending a shot past junior goalie Galen Wilk to make the score 1-0.
The Golden Bears quickly added insurance as senior Paul Russo launched a goal past Wilk less than a minute later to make it 2-0.
"The first 20 minutes were a dogfight," Scarpaci said. "[WNEC is] a very good, well-organized team."
WNEC would add two more goals late in the first half, and at halftime, the score stood at 4-0 in favor of the Golden Bears.
"They just piled on," Schram said.
But, the Lions were a different team after the break.
"The second half I was very pleased," Schram said.
The Lions allowed only a single goal during the last half. They had several near-misses of their own in front of WNEC's goal, but were not quite able to score.
In spite of the team being shut out, Schram said he still saw some encouraging signs.
He said his team performed better than the score indicated.
"We played our game [in the second half]," Schram said.
Emerson competed in a hard-fought game all the way through, according to Scarpaci.
"There were some fouls," Scarpaci said. "Fatigue was setting in."
The scrappy nature of the contest resulted in two members of the Lions leaving the game with minor injuries.
In the first half, sophomore Chris Mathias went down on a particularly physical play, but he returned in the second half.
With a little over a minute left to play, a collision between Emerson's Mike Bianco and WNEC's Kevin Zimbal resulted in both players being lifted from the game.
Given how little time remained in the contest, neither would return.
"[Bianco] had the wind knocked out of him," Schram said.
Bianco was also not available for Monday night's game at Emmanuel College as a result of the hit, Scarpaci said.
Because Emerson has faced an uphill battle most of the season, Schram said the team is not looking to the distant future just yet.
"It's definitely been a rebuilding year," Schram said. "But right now our focus is on one game at a time."