CINCINNATI – Atlantic 10 play began in exciting fashion for the No. 17/14 Xavier men’s soccer team who scored all of its goals in the first-half to upend nationally-ranked Saint Louis, 3-2, at the Xavier University Soccer Complex on Friday.
The Musketeers (8-0-2) received two goals from sophomore Will Walker and the game-winning goal from Gino De Paoli to earn their first conference opening victory since 2006. Xavier also remains unbeaten heading into its second conference match on Sunday.
It was an exciting, back-and-forth first half for both clubs as teams traded goals in the first minute to start a feverish half. Kingsley Bryce put the Billikens (6-3-0) on top with a corralled shot to the low left corner just 76 seconds into play.
Xavier responded with Walker posting back-to-back goals in under seven minutes to give the Musketeers the lead. His first goal was a lofted one-touch from 20 yards out that beat Billiken goalkeeper Nick Shackelford. Walker received a long through pass from De Paoli and senior Sean Ryan to beat Shackelford to the left post.
It was the first two-goal game of Walker’s career and gave him four total goals for the season.
Saint Louis evened the score in the 23rd minute as a free kick led to a header that ricocheted off the far post allowing Robbie Kristo the chance to easily knock it in for the Billikens.
The Musketeers stormed back however setting De Paoli for the game-winning goal in the 28th minute. Junior Matt Walker shuffled a pass through the penalty area setting up the midfielder’s untouched shot into the upper netting.
Both teams made adjustments during halftime that slowed the pace much of the second half, outside of two strong scoring chances, including one in the closing seconds, for Saint Louis.
Xavier goalkeeper Justin Marshall (8-0-2) made a leaping save on a set piece off a free kick outside at the top of the penalty area in the 78th minute. In the closing seconds Kristo slipped past defenders at the end line and fired a shot that hit the far crossbar and bounced directly to Marshall.
The final shot of the night gave Saint Louis the 11-10 shot advantage, but Xavier had a 6-5 advantage in shots on goal. Both teams committed 11 fouls and Xavier received its first two yellow cards since the first match of the season.
Marshall made three saves in ninety minutes of work for the Musketeers. Shackelford made three saves as well for Saint Louis.
The Musketeers will close out the first weekend of Atlantic 10 play when it hosts new league foe Butler beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday.