By Pete Chiodo
With under 23 minutes to play, Cameron Olsen’s shot ricocheted loudly off the crossbar above the head of Hiram’s goalkeeper. And while it didn’t go in, the pipe-rattling miss did seem to wake up the rest of the Allegheny men’s soccer team while putting the visiting Terriers on edge.
The rest of the contest was spent primarily in Hiram’s end of the field. And Allegheny senior Andrew Miller made the most of the situation, breaking a 1-1 tie with a goal in the 73rd minute to help the Gators claim a key North Coast Athletic Conference battle against the Terriers 2-1 on Wednesday at Frank B. Fuhrer Field.
“It was wicked how we just flipped the switch after something like that,” Gators goalkeeper John Lichina said about Olsen’s gong. “Everybody just started running forward, making good runs, getting to the ball, and putting (Hiram) on their back foot. And we found a goal.”
The win puts Allegheny at 7-3-3 on the season and 2-1-1 in the NCAC as they head to Delaware, Ohio to take on Ohio Wesleyan, the No. 1-ranked Division III team in the nation, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Hiram, meanwhile, fell to 4-10-1 on the season and 1-4-0. But that record may be misleading. The Terriers played tough last night.
“No, it wasn’t (easy),” said Miller. “In our conference we have two top 10 teams (in the region). Every single game is a battle. Every single game is a grind. So we’re extremely happy, especially against a team like Hiram, to get three points.”
Hiram put the pressure on early, putting four shots on goal in the first half before Allegheny’s offense could put one on target.
Fortunately for AC, Lichina was having a day, stopping four shots in the opening half and seven for the match.
“Definitely,” said Allegheny head coach Angelo Panzetta. “Johnny’s been on the last couple of games. He made some really key stops against Wabash to keep it at 1-1 in our last road game. ... He’s been doing it for four years at our place and we feel fortunate having him in goal.”
However Lichina couldn’t stop a crowded rush by the Terriers in the 18th minute. Hiram’s Jake Pastore had the ball deep to the right of the goal. He angled it toward the center of the box, finding teammate Ryan Kramarz, who blasted the ball into the net from point blank range.
“We knew they were going to get numbers deep if they had attacks late,” said Lichina. “They swung the ball in. One of their guys finds it between three of our guys at the far post and smashed it in the goal. It’s a shame I couldn’t get a better hand to it.”
It took a while for Allegheny to recover. But with under a minute to play in the first half, the Gators got a golden opportunity on a deep throw-in by Liam McNamee.
McNamee’s toss caused all kinds of trouble in front of Hiram’s net, pinballing around until Daniel Szekely got a hold of it and slung it past Terriers keeper Chris Minite, knotting the score with 20.4 seconds left until the break.
“Liam, one of my freshman, has a great throw-in that’s been dangerous all season,” said Panzetta. “We’ve got some guys that can get up and get after it. You know, any of those balls that we land in there it’s desire to get there. And Dan’s first step was great. He jumped on it and finished quick.”
Neither team seemed to be able to take hold of the momentum to start the second half. Scoring chances were few and far between for both squads.
But right at the halfway point, Olsen fired a laser at the Hiram goal, which sounded the wake-up alarm for the Gators.
Under five minutes later, Allegheny had a crew in Hiram’s penalty box. Brian Graham fired a shot. It bounced hard off the left post and ended up at the feet of Miller, who collected possession, then kicked it into the right corner as Minite slid the other way — 2-1 Gators.
“Luckily I was there to follow up,” said Miller. The goal was his first of the season.