SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo University men’s soccer team exploded for four unanswered goals as they defeated the visiting Eckerd College Tritons 4-1 in Sunshine State Conference action from University Field on Wednesday evening. The win, a much-needed triumph for the Lions, puts Saint Leo at 5-3-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play, while Eckerd suffers their first SSC loss at 2-1 and are now 7-3 overall.
Although Saint Leo came away with the victory, things did not looks good for the Lions in the opening minutes of action. Two near-misses at goal for SLU resulted in a counter-attack from Eckerd that saw Tritons junior forward Luke Sheekey curl a beautiful ball past goalkeeper Griffin Pharr and into the back of the net in the ninth minute, giving EC the 1-0 lead.
Playing from behind, Saint Leo had a number of other opportunities that went by the wayside until the 31st minute. It was at that point that senior Brandon Whitsett dropped a beautiful pass deep into the box that junior Jonathan Glenn managed to get to before the Eckerd goalkeeper and redirect into the goal.
After Glenn’s goal knotted the game, an outstanding play from senior defender Juan Chavez helped send the teams into the interval knotted at one. As Eckerd attacked toward the Saint Leo goal, Pharr dove to his right for a ball, but the save would slip out of his grasp and back into play, it would then be touched by a Triton toward an open net, but Chavez would jump in and clear the ball off the line to keep the game tied.
After the half the Lions came out rejuvenated and seemingly outlasted the Tritons. Both teams played evenly for the first 20 minutes but Saint Leo would bust things open in the 65th minute when Chavez would again play a role, this time on the offensive side of the ball.
As Chavez controlled the ball in the middle of the field he would see senior Eusebio Montoya streaking down the left-side of the field heading toward the box. Chavez would then send a pinpoint 20-yard laser to the foot of Montoya who took one touch to work it past the keeper and into the goal.
Three minutes later Saint Leo would score again as Whitsett was drug down in the corner of the box and the Lions were awarded the penalty. Head Coach Joel Harrison would signal sophomore Bruce Cutler to take the kick, which he promptly blasted home to put the Lions up 3-1.
Things would only get better for SLU a scant four minutes later as Glenn capitalized on a Triton mistake when an EC defender had a poor touch on the ball at midfield. Glenn would steal the ball straightaway, sprint toward the SLU goal and go one-on-one with Domenic Spedaliere, Eckerd’s ‘keeper. Glenn would beat Spedaliere to his left and then knock the ball home to cap off the Lions’ 4-1 win.
Saint Leo, as they have a majority of the season, led in possession and outshot the visitors from St. Petersburg 19-13, with nine of those shots crossing toward the goal. Eckerd was able to put six shots toward the Lions goal, but could only come away with Sheekey’s tally.
The Lions posted a 4-to-2 edge in corners and had 20 fouls compared to Eckerd’s 15 in a physical game that saw five cautions issued.
Saint Leo will take a break from conference play to travel to West Palm Beach where they will face Palm Beach Atlantic University on Saturday afternoon. Kick-off for the match is set for 4:00 p.m. and will be carried live on the Saint Leo Athletics AudioCast Network.