COLCHESTER, Vt. - A goal in the 88th minute drew the Saint Michael's College men's soccer team within one before the comeback fell shy during a 2-1 loss to nationally-regarded Southern Connecticut State University on Wednesday at Duffy Field. The Purple Knights, who have suffered each of their last four losses by one goal, are 2-6-1 overall and 1-6 in the Northeast-10 Conference. Southern Connecticut State, which is receiving votes toward the United Soccer Coaches national poll while sitting fourth in the East Region rankings, is 7-1-2 and 5-0-2 as one of three NE10 squads remaining with an undefeated league mark.
Senior Matt Vlasich (East Kingston, N.H./Exeter/Saint Anselm) netted his first goal of the season for the hosts, while first-year Leland Gazo (Colchester, Vt./Rice Memorial/Bradley) had a career-high eight saves. The Purple Knights were trimmed only 16-13 in shots and 10-8 on corner kicks, as 12 of their past 14 meetings with the Owls since 2006 have been decided by one goal or less. Senior Louis Greenway-Tambini, the league's third-leading scorer, netted both tallies for Southern Connecticut State, and classmate Noah Varonier made four saves.
The Purple Knights held a 7-5 edge in shots by halftime but trailed. In the 10th minute, sophomore Jacob von Giebel (Lambertville, N.J./South Hunterdon Regional) caught up to a bouncing ball in the box and went high to try kicking over a charging Varonier, who denied the bid. Gazo made a pair of point-blank kick saves near the right post later in the stanza, stopping sophomore Blaise Haba in the 22nd minute and Greenway-Tambini early in the 30th.
Greenway-Tambini broke the deadlock during the 33rd minute, dribbling down the left side and shifting through the defense before sliding a shot across the goal mouth into the right corner at 32:08. Senior Jackson Steele's (Swampscott, Mass./Cushing Academy) left-footed shot from outside the box in the 37th minute drifted just above the frame, and Gazo's long free kick from beyond midfield during the 43rd minute went to the head of sophomore Justin D'Orlando (Middleton, Mass./Bridgton Academy), who sent a soft shot from out front on Varonier.
Gazo recorded six stops during the second half to keep the Purple Knights within striking distance, turning away point-blank attempts during the 54th and 63rd minutes around the denial of Greenway-Tambini's 57th-minute drive and senior Ignacio Navarro's header from out front off of a corner kick at 57:21.
In the 67th minute, sophomore Wesley Lord (Manchester, Vt./Burr and Burton Academy) sent a cross toward the left side of the box that Vlasich narrowly missed connecting with for a diving header on a vacated net, and Greenway-Tambini padded the lead at 81:21, beating the defense to the outside and roofing a shot inside the close post. During a broken corner kick play in the 88th minute, Vlasich ran onto a loose ball and ripped it past the Owl keeper to bring his team within a goal. Gazo snuffed out a one-touch shot from close range during a 2-on-1 opportunity just moments later to keep it a one-goal game, but the Purple Knights never fired a tying shot.
Saint Michael's breaks from NE10 play by visiting Felician (N.J.) University on Saturday at 3 p.m.