NEW ROCHELLE, NY – Despite recording its highest shot total since 2012, the Iona College men’s soccer program was defeated in its home-opening contest against Sacred Heart. The Pioneers capitalized on their limited offensive opportunities to overcome the Gaels 26-shot offensive barrage to upend the Maroon & Gold by a final score of 2-1.
Iona outshot Sacred Heart by 19 shots, and managed a distinctive edge in corner kick opportunities at 9 to 1; however, despite the possession and attacking advantage, the Gaels were unable to overcome the Pioneers defense.
A defensive miscommunication by the Maroon & Gold led to Sacred Heart’s first goal at the 21:32 mark. Senior Shaquille Saunchez took gain of an errand Iona pass in the defensive end, swooping in and firing the first shot across the bow from 15 yards out at the top right of the penalty area.
The Gaels responded by firing two shots on goal within the next six minutes. The blitzkrieg of attacking didn’t end, and Iona left many chances on the field. A pair of the missed ventures came in the closing five minutes of the first half; sophomore Daniel Huertas was unable to cash in on a fast break opportunity at the 42:08 mark, and junior Luis Mendoza was robbed of a free-kick strike as the intermission buzzer sounded.
Junior Marcos Nunez came out and rang the crossbar at the start of the second half, but the echo of Iona’s knocking on the door didn’t scare Sacred Heart. In the 62nd minute, the Pioneers caught the Iona defense in retreat during a counter attack, resulting in a penalty shot chance when Saunchez drew a foul in the box.
Freshman defender Oscar Curras stepped up to the dot and buried a shot past Iona goalkeeper sophomoreKellar Sirstins to give the Pioneers a two goal lead.
The Maroon & Gold’s lone goal came at 69:43 when Huertas cleverly slid in a goal off a near right side cross from Nunez. It was the reigning MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year’s second goal of the season, and the 2015 MAAC Offensive Player of the Year picked up his first assist of the year.
Following its score, Iona saw its greatest chance to tie come when sophomore Killian Colombie mishit a left-footed open net chance with 14 minutes remaining. The Gaels did not record another shot following that near-ecstatic moment as the Sacred Heart mentality became purely of the brick wall variety.
Freshman Robert Strain was dynamic in goal for the Pioneers, making seven saves, including more than a pair of diving and sprawling stops.
Huertas led Iona with eight shots, and Nunez fired six of his own. Sophomore Daniel Ocana Garcia booted four towards goal, and Mendoza had a pair of shots on goal. The Gaels were called offside seven times.
The Maroon & Gold’s next contest will be this Saturday, Sept. 3 against the Drexel Dragons. Kickoff is set for 3:00 PM.