By Lisa Byers
Allegheny went into Wednesday night’s men’s soccer game in a position to move into a tie for first place atop the North Coast Athletic Conference standings. And with that, the Gators would have moved closer to hosting a quarterfinal game in the conference tournament next week.
However, the Gators left the game stuck in third place with Hiram now hot on their heels.
Matt Capozzi scored in the 71st minute as Oberlin knocked off Allegheny 1-0 on senior night at Frank B. Fuhrer Field.
The loss was the second straight suffered by the Gators, who snapped a seven-game winning streak on Saturday with a 3-0 loss to defending NCAA Division III national champion Ohio Wesleyan.
Allegheny is now 13-3-1 overall and 5-2-1 in the NCAC and is tied with Hiram for third place in the conference with 16 points.
The Gators conclude regular season play on Saturday at DePauw. The Tigers sit in second place in the NCAC with 17 points. An Allegheny win would move the Gators two points ahead of DePauw and would clinch a home playoff game.
“We’re still going into Saturday where we can beat DePauw and move a step ahead,” Allegheny coach Angelo Panzetta said. “But now we have to contend with Hiram as well.
“Right now, I told the guys we need to have a narrow focus and go to DePauw and get a result, which is not going to be easy. DePauw is ranked right behind us and I think they are undefeated at home. It’s going to take a monumental effort on Saturday, but I know we can do it.”
The road may just be the place for the Gators to be. Both conference losses and a tie to Wittenberg came at Frank B. Fuhrer Field and all three decisions were due in large part to the Gators’ inability to take advantage of opportunities early.
Allegheny had three shots and a corner kick, for example, in the first four minutes of the game, but couldn’t convert. One was a breakaway by Tyler Danzey with only goalie Brandt Rentel to beat. Rentel came up with one of his five saves on the night.
The Gators had a total of 10 shots in the first half to Oberlin’s four.
“We had numerous chances in the first half,” Panzetta said. “Lately that is how things have been going even in the games that we have won. We’ve created a bunch of chances, but we’re just having trouble finishing.”
That left the door open for the Yeomen, who snapped a five-game losing streak. All five of those losses were by just a goal including back-to-back 1-0 shutouts to OWU and DePauw, respectively.
“This year we’ve had a lot of success. We’ve had a good season,” Panzetta said. “But I think the boys are smart enough, and of course I am, to know for most of the year we’ve had either four or five of the teams in our conference ranked in the top 10 in our region.
“It was a regional opponent every game. That is just the strength of our league this year, which speaks a lot of our North Coast Athletic Conference. We happened to be making plays and winning games against tough teams and Oberlin comes in on a five-game losing streak and all five by a goal. They win those games and they are sitting here battling for a playoff spot.”
Oberlin got the one goal it has needed with just over 19 minutes to play. Ed Vitoria took the first shot, which was blocked by an outstretched Allegheny goalie John Lichina for the save. With Lichina still on the ground, John Ingham took the ricochet and passed it to Capozzi who knocked it in for the game-winner.
The Gators had many chances in the final four minutes to tie it. The best chance came with under two minutes to play when Rentel was pulled away from the goal. But Chris Brennan’s shot was blocked by Oberlin defenseman Aki Gormezano.
Allegheny finished with a 14-10 shot advantage.
Before the game, Allegheny honored its 10-member senior class which has amassed an impressive .600 winning percentage, including a .533 conference winning percentage the last four years.