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  • The Griffin

Men’s soccer still searching for elusive win

Sophomore Luke Szablewski's header was the best chance the Griffs could muster in Wednesday's 4-0 loss to Duquesne. Credit: Canisius Athletics via GoGriffs

By: Adam Gorski

It’s been nearly two years since Canisius’s men’s soccer team last won a match, and despite some positive signs during Wednesday night’s match against Duquesne, the drought remains.

Two goals and two assists from the Dukes’ Maxi Hopfer propelled his side to a 4–0 non-league victory over the Griffs on their home pitch in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The match was relatively even in the early going, with both sides offering up chances, including the best of the match for the Griffs (0–3–2) when sophomore Luke Szablewski’s powerful header off a corner kick required a reactionary save from Dukes goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben to keep the ball out.

Moments later, in the 27th minute, a beautiful outside-of-the-boot pass from Hopfer played in Nate Dragisich who finished past Canisius goalkeeper Will Howard.

It didn’t get much better for the Griffs after that.

“I thought [Wednesday] night was uncharacteristic for us,” Griffs head coach Dermot McGrane said. “Both teams turned the ball over a lot, the difference was Duquesne maintained possession for much longer periods. … The longer you maintain possession of the ball, the more chances you’re going to create and the more despondent the other team will get. We were just chasing the game all the time.”

After the Dukes (4–2–0) led 1–0 at halftime, three goals in a matter of 14 minutes sank any hopes of a comeback.

Hopfer notched his second assist in the 50th minute after rolling a cross along the 18-yard box that found the foot of Zach Mowka, who poked it past Howard. Then, in the 57th minute, a 2-on-1 break with Mowka and Hopfer saw the former feed the latter this time, as Hopfer tallied Duquesne’s third goal. The freshman finished off the scoring six minutes later with a penalty kick for his fourth goal involvement of the night.

“When you look at the final three goals, they all came from turnovers. We were just making too many of those mistakes,” McGrane said. “We addressed what we thought the problems were at halftime, but they didn’t change in the second half.”

The loss to the Dukes marked the first time this season Canisius has been shut down, and despite not finding that win just yet, McGrane’s men have made strides since the spring.

A season-opening 1–1 draw against a talented Utah Valley side kicked off their campaign with a noteworthy score line: a week later, they came from 2–0 down at halftime to draw with St. Bonaventure, 2–2. Results like these have shown growth in McGrane’s eyes.

“Our team is just more mature. Last season the majority of our starters were freshmen and sophomores, and now we have a large junior class,” he said. “We’ve shown that we’re mentally stronger this year. We’ve shown resilience, like in the Bonaventure game.”

With some key attacking players like Jo Preci and Julius Schoner sidelined due to injury, to still be competing and creating scoring chances is a testament to that maturity and growth. With two more non-conference matchups left, McGrane hopes the positive signs he’s seen will carry over into MAAC play.

“Going into the conference season, it’s a new breath of life for everybody,” he said. “My philosophy has always been to use the non-conference to prepare us for the conference season. We’ve been preaching to the boys that we want to be playing our best at the end of September, and I think we’ve progressed in every game we’ve played.”

The Griffs finish off their non-conference schedule with two home matches. First, a 1 p.m. Sunday matinee against St. Francis (Pa.), followed by a tough test on Friday against Bowling Green at 4 p.m.

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