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Men's soccer battles the elements in conference win

By JP Guzhnay and Anders Jorstad - SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE AND STAFF WRITER Megan McGuire/ Hofstra Chronicle Danny Elliott comes down on the ball with a Dragon player right on his back. Elliott notched six shots on Wednesday night. The Pride managed to defeat the Drexel Dragons 2-1 at home, but fell to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks 2-0 away on Saturday.

Hofstra was seeking their second consecutive victory after their previous win over James Madison University, but failed in the attempt.

After splitting the series, the Pride currently set themselves at 9-5-2 overall and 4-2 in Colonial Athletic Association standings. Hofstra holds the second place spot in the CAA standings with two conference matches left in the regular season.

The Pride started it off, facing Drexel at home on Wednesday’s match that turned out to be intense as rain pounded the Hofstra Soccer Stadium.

Head coach Richard Nuttall was delighted after watching his team take the win in the dying moments in a game with such harsh weather conditions.

“The weather was the biggest factor. It was hard to clear our lines in the severe wind and it’s hard to play against that, but I thought we did well and we did what we have to do. [Hofstra] got the ball forward,” said Nuttall.

The Pride started off strong, keeping early possession from the Dragons. Yet, it was Drexel that looked dangerous on the counter, recording eight corner kicks in the first half.

The Pride broke the deadlock after 35 minutes, when Hofstra senior forward Maid Memic scored after sophomore Joseph Holland whipped in a cross from the left flank down the middle to give the Pride the 1-0 lead.

It seemed as if Coach Nuttall’s men were going into the second half with the 1-0 lead, until referee Lee Suckle called for a hand ball in the penalty box. It was Drexel’s John Grosh, who converted his second goal of the season from the penalty spot sending both teams tied going into the second half.

For most of the match, the Pride and the Dragons battled it out looking for the midfield domination. But because of the ugly conditions, the wind and rain prevented both teams from playing the passing game they wanted to.

Still, it was senior midfielder Elliot Firth who played fantastically on the center of the pitch. The English-born player was responsible for most of the interceptions for the team and led the transitions from defense to attack.

Later that night, Nuttall described Firth`s performance as “outstanding.” “My man of the match was Elliot Firth, I though he was all over the field winning tackles, winning balls, winning headers and keeping everyone going,” said coach Nuttall.

The Hofstra defense stepped up tremendously in the second half, surrendering one shot in the second period. Drexel’s offense failed to compete with the Pride in the second half as Hofstra shot the ball 10 times alone in the last half of the match.

With only two minutes to spare, Memic came up clutch, scoring the game-winning goal in the 88th minute without any assistance.

Hofstra goalkeeper Patric Pray had a solid night defending the net, allowing one goal but establishing two saves on the night to keep Hofstra on track to win the game.

The Pride were unable to keep the winning streak Saturday and dropped its final conference road match to the CAA-leading UNCW Seahawks by a score of 2-0. This was the first time the Pride were shut out since Sept. 1.

Hofstra came into the match winning seven of its last eight games and with an elite 4-1 record in conference play.

Both teams were at a standstill in the first half as the Pride defense managed to keep the Seahawks scoreless, and both teams entered the second half with a scoreless tie.

It wasn’t until the 68th minute when the Seahawks capitalized on a Jaco VanCompernolle cross which led to a header by Brayden Smith for the first goal of the game.

UNCW midfielder Jamie Dell would tact on the lead by knocking in his eighth goal of the season in the 74th minute, extending the lead to 2-0. The Seahawks’ offense controlled the momentum of the game with outshooting the Pride, five shots on goal to one.

Pride Goalie Patrick Pray competed hard to keep Hofstra within the game for majority of the game with three saves on the night. But UNCW took advantage of the Pride’s lack of offense and forced Pray’s record to drop to his fourth loss on the season.

Hofstra senior forward Maid Memic’s six-game goal streak came to an end in this match in a game where the offense was the real detriment to the team. Hofstra’s offense struggled to compete with the first place Seahawks with UNCW outshooting the Pride 8-5.

The Pride only managed a single shot on goal for the entirety of the match, the other four were off target.

This is an unusual trend for the squad seeing as the Pride are ranked third in the CAA in offensive efficiency with 1.44 goals per game. This was the first time the team had been shut out since Sept. 1.

The loss set the Pride, who currently find themselves in second place, behind the Seahawks. The team will not have another shot at UNC-Wilmington unless they happen to face off against them in the playoffs.

The Pride need to win the rest of their games, and UNC-Wilmington to lose one of its final matches, in order to claim first place in the conference standings.

The team will attempt to find its offensive flow in the two remaining regular season matchups.The next matchup is a home game on Wednesday against Northeastern, starting at 7:00 p.m.

Later in the week, the Pride will take on College of Charleston on Saturday at home at 7:00 p.m.

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