Andrew Anastasio – Sports Writer –
Getting his first start of the season for Men’s Soccer on Oct. 6 against Saint Anselm, Owls (7-5-1) sophomore goalkeeper Stephen Sasso has since led the team to three victories in the five games he has started.
“I was excited when I was named the starter,” Sasso said. “I got one game in last year and after that, I didn’t see much time. I started training, and I kept working hard. I knew my time was going to come eventually, and I was really excited for that first start this year.”
A native of Orange, Conn., Sasso played high school soccer at Amity. There, he was elected All-Area in his junior and senior seasons, and helped lead his team to a victory in the Southern Connecticut Conference Championship game in his junior year.
Coming out of high school, Sasso said he heard all the positive speculation revolving around Southern’s soccer program. Sasso said that this led him to choose to come to the university in 2010.
“Southern has always been known for their soccer program,” Sasso said. “I felt that it was a perfect fit for me, and it was close to home. It’s got all the makes that I want.”
In his first start with the Owls, Sasso was beaten three times on the night that ended in a 3-1 Saint Anselm victory. He finished that game recording only one save.
He responded in his next start against American International College with a shutout performance. Sasso recorded five saves on the night to help break the Owls out of a four game losing stint.
Since taking over the starting role, Sasso is 3-2 with an overall total of 19 saves.
“Stephen had bit of a rough game in his first start against Saint Anselm, so we wanted to show a little bit of confidence in him and give him another opportunity to play,” head coach Tom Lang said. “I think he’s done well, but it’s also a situation where the team in front of him does well. What he’s had to do, he’s responded very well.”
Teammate Daquan King said Sasso’s work ethic has made him worthy of the starting job.
“The kid has been working hard,” King said. “He’s been training and when his time came, he was ready. Greg was in goal the whole first half of the season, and when it was Sasso’s time to step up, he did and he’s been doing very well for us. His awareness is good, and he keeps the back-line in shape. He just knows the game very well, and he sees everything that the other players on the field can’t see.”
In three of Sasso’s five starts this season, the Owls have scored first. Sasso said playing with a lead has made his experience in goal less stressful.
“Sometimes it’s easier, but it all depends on the run of play,” Sasso said. “Sometimes the play is intense, and sometimes I get a little bit of break and I’m able to take a breath and watch my team play. Most of the time it’s an intense experience.”
Currently, the Owls stand in seventh place in the Northeast-10 Conference. With only two games remaining on the season, King said the team is confident that Sasso can lead them into postseason contention.
“He is our goalie, that’s a huge part and we believe in him,” King said. “There’s also 11 players on the team. He’s a key factor as well as the other players on the field. I believe he can help us get there and if play collectively, we can help each other stay there.”