Owls pick up mammoth win on senior night on Avila’s game winning goal
Michael Riccio – Sports Editor
On a night where four Owls seniors were honored, and a game Zak Wright said was a “must win,” it was Juan Avila, a freshman, who was the hero in the Owls 1-0 victory over The College of Saint Rose.
Avila scored the game winning goal in the 89th minute on an assist by Kevin Van der Pol, the first goal in Avila’s collegiate career and Van der Pol’s first assist of the season. With the win, the Owls (9-7, 6-6) moved to sixth place in the NE10 standings with one game remaining and put them three points ahead of ninth place Bentley and Stonehill. The top eight teams make the conference tournament.
“It was amazing,” Avila said. “Especially during senior night and we really needed that win. It was very special and my first college career goal, hopefully it’s not my last one.”
The game began with a 30-minute lightening delay, and rained for most of the pregame ceremonies. Jhony Gonzalez, a senior defender, said the he thinks the weather played a factor because the ball skipped a lot and the lightening backed the team up during the delay.
The first half featured just three shots on goal combined for both teams. In the second half, the Owls were able to hold Saint Rose (7-7-1, 4-7-1) to just one shot on goal.
Gonzalez said the team was compact and focused on defending well, which led to their second straight shutout.
“We try to emphasize if we defend well, at some point in time we have to score a goal,” Gonzalez said. “As long as we keep a zero on the board and score we’ll win the game.”
Before the game, the Owls honored Dylan Hogan and Jake Davis and captains Wright and Gonzalez for senior night. Wright, a former walk on, said the night was important for him.
“Coming here and not really being recruited and getting a chance to come out and play and making it all the way to senior year and being captain, it’s something special,” Wright said. “I’ll cherish it and it’s been a fun ride.”
Entering the game, the Owls were tied for seventh in the conference and controlled their own destiny for a tournament spot. But with seven teams all within five points of each other entering the season’s final week, Wright said he knew the Owls had an opportunity to move up the standings. Gonzalez said the team came into this game “very aware” of their situation.
“Coming off a big win against Merrimack, we knew if we got another three points we’d put ourselves in a position to hopefully have a home game and probably be a fourth seed,” Gonzalez said. “That was a big emphasis on the day as well.”
Avila said the team really needed to finish the season with three wins. After already beating Merrimack and Saint Rose 1-0 to win two of those three games, they play Saint Anselm on the road on Friday.
“Obviously the goal each game is to get the win,” Avila said. “That’s our goal for Friday as well.”
Wright said the game on Friday is another big game for the Owls as they try to clinch a tournament berth.
“[Saint Anselm] is struggling a little bit this year, bottom of the table, but we go into it with the same mentality we’ve gone into the last couple of games,” Wright said. “Knowing we have to pick up points and keep climbing up the leaderboard. That’s the mentality.”
Saint Anselm enters the game 0-11-3 and 0-9-3 in conference play.