MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – The College of Charleston men’s soccer team picked up a crucial 2-1 victory over James Madison in Colonial Athletic Association play at Patriots Point on Wednesday night, greatly enhancing their chances at the postseason.
The CofC (3-10-1, 1-4-1 CAA) victory – its first league win as members of the CAA – propels the Cougars past JMU (6-8-1, 1-5-0 CAA) in the CAA standings and preserves CofC’s potential postseason lives.
The Cougars got two goals from Trinidadian freshmen Xavier Rajpaul (Port of Spain, Trinidad) and Adan Noel (La Brea, Trinidad). Their fellow freshman classmate, Erik Clark (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.), contributed assists on both goals, with Tanner Clay (Gilbert, Ariz.) and Troy Peterson (Federal Way, Wash.) each adding an assist as well.
Rajpaul put the Cougars up in the 33rd minute, but the Dukes eventually equalized with a second-half goal in the 57th minute. The Cougars, unwilling to tolerate having second-half leads in three consecutive matches without a result to show for it, threatened the rest of the way until Noel tucked in the game winner in the 83rd minute.
“Hard fought game,” said CofC head coach Ralph Lundy. “This is a tough conference, man… a tough conference. With every team, it’s a battle. I thought we had very many good chances in the second half. I know the shots are equal, but I think our chances were numerous inside the 18, inside the 12, even inside the six. I couldn’t believe it was happening and not going in… but it finally went in… through tough determined play and very good attacking play.
“I’m happy for my players who have stuck with it when the ball hasn’t bounced our way. It’s been a true test of character and I’m giving them an A+.”
Senior goalkeeper Kees Heemskerk (Zaandam, Netherlands) was back in goal for his second match since an eight-week injury leave and made six saves in the contest.
He was tested early when JMU won a foul call just outside the penalty area in only the second minute, and JMU’s Daniel Roppert whipped the free kick around the defensive wall, but Heemskerk fully extended to his left for an acrobatic diving save.
The teams alternated spells of possession as the match took its shape, but the play seriously shifted in favor of the Cougars midway through the opening half.
After the Cougars produced four consecutive corner kicks around the 25th minute, the opening marker came in the run of play as Clark controlled a ball in the far-right corner in front of the Patriots Point scoreboard. He played a ball towards the top of the 18 for Clay who toed it in the air near the penalty spot, and there Rajpaul connected on a diving header, heavily colliding with a defender and propelling the ball over the top of a fully-extended JMU goalkeeper towards the bottom of the crossbar and the back of the net.
The Cougars, not content to sit back and defend the lead, remained ambitious on the attack and continued to create chances for the remaining first half and into the second.
Heemskerk made two big saves to preserve the lead in the early moments of the second half, first on a point-blank attempt at the near post from Josh Grant, and then a diving stop to his left to deny a header on the ensuing corner kick in the 53rd minute.
JMU would equalize five minutes later, however, on another corner kick opportunity, one of 10 they produced in the match. The Cougars got a head to the initial entry ball and deflected it towards the top of the 18-yard box, but there Adam Bastidas hammered it on the volley into the top right corner of the net.
The Cougars regrouped almost immediately, and their unwillingness to allow another result slip away was unambiguous. The side persistently pestered the Dukes with chances and runs for the remainder of the match, and a game winner seemed imminent.
It finally came in the 83rd minute when Clark swung a ball into the box from the right corner and Peterson chested it to the turf in prime position for Noel who convincingly blasted the ball into the left side netting for the game’s decisive goal.
“We’ve been close now for about a month,” said Lundy. “I’m so happy for the players because they have stayed loyal and committed, and really shown great, great character. The thing I’m most happy about is we got the win for these young men who are showing great stuff.”
The rejuvenated Cougars take to the skies for a trip to Boston, Mass., where they’ll take on one of the league’s top teams in second-place Northeastern on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. The Cougars then conclude the regular season at home against first-place Drexel on Wednesday, Nov. 6.