By STEFAN GESTWICKI
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
Fredonia State's stingy defense allowed just one shot on goal in the first half, Saturday against Houghton College.
OBSERVER?Photo by Courtney Gfroerer
Fredonia State’s Jeremy Voigt looks to make a move around a fallen Houghton player during their game at the Clarion Inn Classic, on?Saturday, at University Stadium.
Unfortunately for the home team, that shot found the back of the net as the Highlanders went on to beat the Blue Devils, 1-0, in the conclusion of the 2012 Clarion Classic at University Stadium.
At the 28-minute mark, Houghton coach Matthew Webb went to his bench and chose his substitutions wisely.
Just seconds later, newly-entered Karrell Kuwong buried a rebound into the top right corner of the net.
"Our right back got beat," Fredonia State coach P.J. Gondek explained of the goal. "He crossed it and it just deflected right to their guy. The same play happened to us five times in the second half, but it didn't go to our guy any of those times."
The eventual game-winner was the only shot on goal allowed by the Blue Devils in the first half and the defense held Houghton to just seven for the entire game.
"It hasn't been bad," Gondek said of his defense. "The two guys we played at centerback today were freshmen. These are the first two starts they have had for us. I've never even played a freshmen at centerback, let alone two at once."
Those two freshmen, Mike Biggane and Keith Braun, were chosen to represent Fredonia State on the All-Tournament Team for their solid play.
After a majority of the first-half action took place directly in front of Fredonia goalkeeper Mike Schriner, the Blue Devils were able to finish the half with a flurry of scoring opportunities.
In the last five minutes of the half, Patrick Schuber, Zach Dann and Akwasi Owusu each had good looks at tying the score at one.
Owusu's opportunity might have been the best as he took a pass right in front of the net from David Nichols (Fredonia) and blasted a shot point blank into Houghton goalkeeper Tyler Mastin.
All game long, Fredonia State simply couldn't get the one bounce it needed.
"(Luck) is only part of the equation," Gondek added. "Like with anything, when you lose, there's several reasons for it. There's several things we need to correct. We're turning the ball over a little too much. We're not creating chances. We've got a few injuries. We're not getting breaks. All of that is part of the equation."
Both teams had chances in the second half, but Mastin and Schriner stole the show with each making a couple nice saves.
Ten minutes into the second half, Schuber had a look at tying the score, but Mastin dove to his right and kept the ball out of the net.
Likewise, Schriner kept the deficit at one when he stone-walled Houghton's Paul Seddon with 13:30 left on the clock.
Schriner finished with six saves in the loss.
The loss was the second of the tournament for the Blue Devils, who have struggled to get going offensively this season.
"I think it's hard to not be frustrated at this point," Gondek admitted. "The thing that has carried us through is that our players believe that we can turn this around and be not just a good team, but a really good team. So I think they come to the field each day knowing the switch is going to come on for us."
Even with the two losses, Gondek sees a bright future for the program.
"Our freshman class really made a difference for us this weekend," he pointed out. "Going forward this season, I think we have a lot to be excited about. We're going to get this."
The Blue Devils have a few more chances to right the ship before conference play begins. The team travels to play Nazareth on Tuesday before heading to Colorado for a pair of games.
"We'll be able to do some team building in Colorado," Gondek stated. "Then we'll come back home for an opening weekend of Geneseo and Brockport."