By: Will Cunningham
Homecoming Saturday at Eastern University not only featured the well-known homecoming dance, but also three home sports games for fans to attend. While field hockey and women’s soccer dropped the first two games respectively, men’s soccer put on a show for Eastern fans, dominating in a 7-1 victory over the Hood College Blazers.
The Eagles’ first conference win of the season was desperately needed considering their struggles to start the year. They had lost seven of their first 11 games, the last two being in conference, and all but two of those losses came by just one goal. The Eagles have been competitive with their talent all season, but they haven’t been able to capitalize on the opportunities given to them. In order to finish off more victories, something had to change.
To provide a spark, head coach Glodi Konga made some changes to the lineup. He inserted senior Tommaso Garavaglia and first year Andrew Potter, who have both come off the bench for most of the season, into the starting lineup as outside defenders to bolster the defense. He also moved Ryan Jammes to his more natural position of forward, in the hopes of maximizing the talent within the lineup.
These changes worked much better than anticipated, as the Eagles put together their most complete performance of the season. Multiple Eagles had tremendous performances on homecoming, including forward Evan Cope, who collected his first career hat trick with three goals on the day.
Ryan Jammes also thrived upon returning to the front row, chipping in an assist and what could be considered as the MAC Commonwealth goal of the week. Receiving a long serve pass from Nik Kokolios, he had a brilliant first touch off his chest to cross two Hood defenders before firing a powerful shot off his left foot into the bottom right corner of the net. First years Steven Fajardo and Matthew Capuano each scored their first goals of their collegiate careers, while Marino Iandolo chipped in his first goal of the season to wrap up the scoring. The Eagles outshot Hood 26-11 in the contest.
“Finishing was off-the-charts on Saturday,” Konga said. “The guys were very clinical with how they remained focused in and around the 18-yard box with the crosses and finishing in front of goal.”
As spectacular as the Eagles were on the offensive end, their defense was able to completely shut down Hood’s attack. Not only did Eastern hold Hood scoreless through the first 85 minutes, but they also held them to five shots all game, including none through the first 40 minutes of the second half. First year goalkeeper Ty Bleiler made three saves in the win.
“The guys played exceptionally well and came out fast executing a defensive game plan very well in terms of how we pressed and retained possession,” Konga said. “At the end of the day, we were hungry, and we knew that this was a game where we wanted to show what we can do and really just get an outcome that reflected how good we are.”
This match would prove to have provided a spark for the Eagles. The win kicked off a winning streak that featured a 4-1 win over Lebanon Valley on Tuesday, Oct. 11 with similar success on both ends just three days later. Should the Eagles keep up their strong offensive production, they have a shot to make the conference tournament for the first time since 2019.
Eastern fans can watch the team continue this quest at home on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m., when they face off against York, who defeated the Eagles in last year’s match to set themselves up for an eventual berth in the conference tournament.