The Mighty Oaks men's and women's soccer teams scored major victories Oct. 23 and 24 and captured ESF's first dual Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.
The women won the title with a long-awaited victory over their rivals from the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences after defeating King's College in the semifinal match. The men's team defeated the College of New Rochelle in the final after getting past the College of Pharmacy in the semifinal. Until the tournament, both Mighty Oaks teams had lost to the College of Pharmacy for two straight years.
The championships mean both ESF teams receive automatic bids to the USCAA soccer national championships in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Nov. 10-14.
"These tremendous wins are a result of a great deal of work and commitment by both teams. They now own a piece of ESF history, winning the first conference championships." said Head Coach Dan Ramin. Ramin was also awarded the HVIAC Men's and Women's Head Coach of the Year.
The men's team came out firing on all cylinders, attacking the Albany Pharmacy defense quickly and early. In the eighth minute, senior Jorge Guarin's cross found junior Jean Carlo Barrientos, who trapped the ball in the box and volleyed it into the net from six yards out, giving ESF an early 1-0 lead. ESF continued pressuring the Panthers throughout the first half, getting 11 shots on goal. Freshman Joseph Kulikowski found the back of the net on a crisp pass from senior Joe Marino at the 32nd minute to give ESF a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
At the start of the second half, Guarin converted a penalty kick, putting ESF up 3-0. The Panthers would not go out without a fight. Sophomore Reid LaPlante got Albany Pharmacy on the board with a goal at the 61st minute. Three minutes later, freshman Austin Myers chipped in another goal for the Panthers, making the score 3-2. The Mighty Oaks kept their cool as the lead was whittled down to one goal and received a stroke of luck when a miscommunication within the Panthers' defense resulted in an own-goal, adding to the ESF lead, 4-2. LaPlante answered again for the Panthers at the 70th minute, putting Albany Pharmacy within striking distance once more. Kulikowski put the game out of reach for the Panthers with his second goal of the match at the 80th minute when he was the recipient of a beautiful pass from Barrientos, giving ESF a 5-3 win. The final score matched last year's score, when ESF lost to the Panthers in the semifinals, 5-3.
In the championship game, the Mighty Oaks faced another formidable task, the Blue Angels of the College of New Rochelle. New Rochelle (15-3) entered the post-season as an overwhelming favorite after outscoring league opponents by a 46-2 margin en route to the undefeated regular season title. They also entered the final game on a 10-game winning streak and riding seven straight shutouts.
As expected, the Blue Angels struck first on freshman Gabriel Lopez's goal in the 29th minute but the Mighty Oaks responded three minutes later on freshman Mickael Myagkota's goal that tied the game at 1-1.Despite gusty winds, the Blue Angels outshot ESF 10-5 in the first half.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Marino dribbled deep into Blue Angel's territory and found a streaking Guarin whose first shot was blocked by the defense before Guarin instinctively collected his rebound and buried it in the back of the net, putting ESF up 2-1.
In the 72nd minute, the league-leading scorer and 2016 Player of the Year, freshman Jovanni Garcia, appeared to score the equalizer slipping past the defense and finishing on a one-and-one, but it was negated by a razor-thin offsides call. Just two minutes later, Garcia had a free kick attempt from just outside the 18, which he fired over the wall but the ball rang squarely off the crossbar.
Marino added an insurance goal for ESF at the 82nd minute to help seal the win for the Mighty Oaks.
The Mighty Oaks were the lowest seed to win the title in the last 10 years. Guarin was named the tournament MVP. Marino, senior Zack Reda and sophomore goalkeeper Matt Hoppe were named to the HVIAC All-Conference Team.