Lasers conquer Colby-Sawyer, clinch playoffs in comeback win
The men’s soccer team defeated Colby-Sawyer College 3-2 Saturday afternoon after being down a goal with five minutes remaining. The come-from-behind victory clinched a playoff berth for the Lasers, who now stand at 3-5-3 in the Great Northeastern Athletic Conference (GNAC) with one game remaining in the regular season.
“We definitely had to earn it, it wasn’t easy,” said Lasers head coach Jared Lewis. “We knew Colby-Sawyer was going to fight and give us a game and they did, you know, to the last couple minutes, they didn't quit. So we had to match that intensity and effort for the full 90 minutes.”
Five total goals were scored in the match, and three of those goals occurred in the final five minutes. Senior Callum Buchanan was first on the score sheet, giving the Chargers a 1-0 lead less than fifteen minutes into the first half. Nine minutes later, Lasers sophomore forward Dan Faynstein equalized off an assist from first-year midfielder Liam Thompson.
The teams stayed tied for the next hour of game-time thanks to a keeper clinic put on by either side's goalies. Sophomore Laser Gabrielus Bazikas had five saves, while Chargers’ Yener Bartolon had two.
Bartolon had his hands full all afternoon, as Faynstein frequently found his way to goal. Feinstein made up half of his teams’ total shot attempts with 13, and two-thirds of the Lasers’ shots on target with 4. As a whole, the Lasers outshot the visitors 26 to 17.
Tensions rose as the scoreless streak continued well into the second half. Thankfully for the Lasers, sophomore Koki Matsuwaki provided a spark. Matsuwaki made his mark by scrapping in the mid-field and creating scoring chances up front for the home team. On two separate occasions, Matsuwaki intercepted balls out of the back from the Chargers, turning them into offense.
According to Lewis, Matsuwaki has been dealing with recurring ankle problems this season. Due to this, the midfielder was helped off by assistants around the 70th minute.
Finally, with just five minutes and seven seconds to go, Chargers sophomore Jadon Baros scored an incredible goal. The midfielder set up 30 yards from goal, took one touch to his right to make space from his defender, and proceeded to lace it into the top right corner over the extended hands of Bazikas.
By all accounts, the game appeared to be wrapped up after the momentous go-ahead score by Baros. However, according to Faynstein, the Lasers weren’t rattled. “After they scored to take the lead with five minutes left, we knew that five minutes is plenty of time to get ourselves back into the game so it really just brought [out] a hunger and drive within our team to go and respond with a goal of our own,” said Faynstein. Just thirty seconds later, the Lasers did just that.
Matsuwaki was the catalyst for the Lasers upon re-entering the game. After a chaotic sequence in front of the net, the Tokyo native evened the match 2-2 with a left foot low-ball into the bottom right.
“He showed the mentality of the culture that we're after,” said Lewis. “He has the grit and the heart that we want. It paid off for him today, paid off for us today.”
Reinvigorated by the bounce-back score, the Lasers rallied for another minute until achieving the improbable. In the 86th minute, Faynstein was put through on goal by none other than Matsuwaki. Finally, after peppering the opponents all afternoon, Faynstein found another finish— this one to secure the win, and guarantee a playoff spot for his team.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to score that game winner and help the team secure such an important win. We knew we really needed to get the 3 points to help reach our goal of making the playoffs so I’m super stoked to have been able to be a part of this victory,” said Faynstein. “The energy of the team and the fans really helped me score the game winning goal to complete the comeback.”
After the win, Coach Lewis acknowledged the magnitude of the win, as well as the pride he had for his team. “One of our early team goals for the year was to make the tournament. You know, rough patches within this season, but these boys battled and showed the heart and showed what it takes. A couple of our games we showed we can play the top dogs so it's just getting into playoffs and then anything can happen,” said Lewis.
The Lasers final regular season game will be away at Rivier Wednesday Oct. 26. The GNAC playoffs will begin Oct. 29.