Gators begin season with two shutouts

John Lichina, ‘14, recorded two shutouts last weekend against Centre College and John Carroll. Last year he led the conference in saves and has stopped 12 shots in the first three games of the season. CHARLIE MAGOVERN/THE CAMPUS

The Gator men’s soccer squad kicked off a hot and humid opening weekend in Oberlin, Ohio with two decisive 2-0 victories against John Carroll University and Centre College. Defenseman Michael Iacono, ’13, started off the steamy weekend with a scorcher of his own, sending an unassisted goal from 25 yards out through the hands of Centre College goalkeeper Chris Jackson in the 44th minute. Andrew Zimmer, ’13, finished off the Colonels with a late goal to cap off the first game Friday night. The match against John Carroll featured more of the same from Allegheny. In the 27th minute, forward Chris Brennan, ’13, received a pass from Brian Graham, ’12, and placed it into the upper left corner. “Matt Weintraub side-stepped a defender and played a long diagonal to Brian Graham, who played it back up to me about 18 yards out,” said Brennan. “It was really the end product of a great play. I would have kicked myself if I didn’t score that one.” Another bright spot of the opening weekend came at the hands and feet of sophomore goalkeeper John Lichina. Lichina collected a combined 11 saves in the two shutouts. Lichina credited the defense, which kept the number of shots low over the weekend. “The 10 guys in front of me worked extremely hard this weekend,” said Lichina, “That’s all I can really ever ask for.” Lichina made an immediate impact in his freshman season. He earned seven shutouts and was named to the All-NCAC Honorable Mention team. On top of those accolades, he posted an NCAC-best 113 saves. “John is an emerging leader on our team,” Brennan said, “His ability to make tough saves gives the rest of the team great confidence. He frequently stays after practice saving shots, which in turn makes us better shooters. I’m glad to have him on the squad.” Lichina will need to build on his early successes for the Gators to attain two of their biggest goals each year: reach the NCAC playoffs and turn that into a spot in the national tournament. “We definitely want to be back in the NCAC tournament,” Lichina said. “We lost some key seniors from last year, but we have the players that can step into those positions and perform for us.” The team lost six seniors from last year including D.J. Egan, a four-time All-NCAC pick. The Gators were ranked seventh in the NCAC preseason poll, but following the weekend jumped to No. 4 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll for the Great Lakes region. Despite being ranked seventh, the Gators believe they have the tools to defy preseason expectations. They bring back Lichina along with midfielder Travis Tasker, ’13, who tied for second on the team in points last season. Tasker started 25 games so far in his career including every game in 2010. Matt Weintraub, ’12, also brings experience to the pitch at midfield. He has 20 starts and has played in 45 games throughout his career. The Gator men had a similar start to the 2010 season. They began the year 3-0 without allowing a goal, only to cool down and finish off the year with an 8-8-3 record. They hope to steer clear of that path in order to reach the NCAA tournament. Allegheny’s hot offense continued in Tuesday’s home opener, as the Gators put up five goals in a 5-2 win over Grove City. The win was head coach Angelo Panzetta’s 100th of his 11-year tenure at Allegheny. This weekend the Gators will head to Wilmington, Ohio, where they will take on Heidelberg University and Wilmington College of Ohio.