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Men's soccer kills the Hawk

La Salle’s men’s soccer team finally opened its home schedule on Saturday with an impressive 4-1 victory over their Philadelphia Soccer Seven and Atlantic 10 rival, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. The Explorers improved to 2-3-1 on the season behind goals by junior Ryan Dougherty (two), senior Jeremy Ortiz, and freshman Ryan Richter.

Mike Dao - Junior Kevin Lydic sets himself up at home against St. Joe’s.

Saint Joseph’s took the lead in the 20th minute on a strike just inside the eighteen yard box by Andrew Tursi. The unassisted shot sailed past junior goalie Dan Pfeiffer in what turned out to be the lone defensive mishap for the Explorers.

The Hawks looked poised to break the game open with all the momentum on their side, as well as numerous scoring opportunities and a stingy defense. However, the latter stages of the first half were all La Salle, as the team scored three goals in a two-minute span between the 35th and 37th minutes to take a 3-1 lead. The Explorers never looked back.

The onslaught started when Dougherty took a long pass from senior Joe Heavey and poked it past Hawks keeper Bryan Benedict to even the score at 1-1. Ortiz followed with his first goal of the season, a sleek low shot into the side netting off passes from Heavey and Richter to give the Explorers the lead. Head coach Pat Farrell was happy to see his star put one in the net.

“It’s very important for him to get going,” Farrell said. “He draws a lot of attention [from opposing defenses], and the fact that he was able to score shows how good he is.”

Less than a minute later, sophomore Ryan Tadley played a ball into the box for Richter and Dougherty. Richter’s initial shot was swatted away by Benedict right onto Dougherty’s head, and the junior was able to finish and record his second goal.

With all the momentum on their side, the Explorers continued pressing offensively in the second half. Richter added another insurance goal, his team-leading third, in the 54th minute off a pass from senior Walter McMahon.

Ortiz was named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason team for the second year in a row, and is a returning First-Team A-10 honoree. Coach Farrell knows that the team will need other players to take on a scoring role with Ortiz tied up in double- and triple-teams.

“Richter is a freshman and he has three goals, and [Dougherty] stepped up and got two on Saturday,” Farrell said.

Even with the lead, the Explorers continued to play aggressively throughout the second half. Perhaps the best defense is to remain on offense. Farrell thought that the team did a good job of keeping the Hawks on their heels.

“When we have the ball, we try to maintain a 75 percent possession, 25 percent long ball approach,” Farrell said. “If we can make two, three passes and then play a long ball up, we can catch the defenders off-guard. Defenders don’t like to run backwards toward their own goal; it’s an uncomfortable position.”

Indeed, the first two goals were set up by long through balls over the Hawks’ back line, and the forwards were able to convert.

The team travels to Rider Saturday to begin a four-game road trip. The team will not come home until Oct. 19, when they will start a four-game homestand, beginning with Dayton.

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