By Ben Hercik
The Cleveland State University men’s soccer team currently has a record of 6-4-1 and finds themselves sitting in third place in the Horizon League standings with four games remaining in the regular season. This comes as a result of a 4-2 record over their past six matches.
The Vikings were able to start this stretch of games with a 1-0 win over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, via a goal in the 41st minute from senior Lawrence Karpeh. Last season, Karpeh only had one goal the entire season while his goal against Milwaukee was his third of this season. Karpeh has focused on helping the team in any way that he can in order to win games.
“I’m just so hungry to score, and I try to put myself into position to get goals, trying to do whatever it takes and trying to get something out of nothing,” Karpeh said. “I want to do something to help the team in whatever way I can.”
Karpeh’s efforts can be seen as he is second on the team in goals, just behind fellow senior Gabriel Pewu for the team lead.
The team would then hit a snag, losing two consecutive games. They fell to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, 1-0 after the Phoenix scored a late goal. The team then traveled to take on the University of Cincinnati, looking to bounce back. Cincinnati struck first by scoring twice to take a 2-0 lead in the middle of the second period. This deficit would not deter the Vikings, and they looked to rally. It started with a goal from Pewu in the 52nd minute to cut the lead down to 2-1. The Vikings continued to attack and found the back of the net again in the 66th minute after a shot by freshman Pablo Kawecki. After tying the game, the Vikings had four more shots on goal, but were unable to get the ball past the goalkeeper and prevent overtime. In the extra period, the Bearcats were able to score first and win the game 3-2.
These back to back losses didn’t faze the team. Next up for the Vikings was a game against The Ohio State University. The team came out striking and scored in the 15th minute via a shot by Pewu. After taking the 1-0 lead into the half, Cleveland State found the back of the net again in the 52nd minute, when Karpeh found the back of the net and extended the lead to 2-0. But the Buckeyes struck back, scoring two goals of their own within 30 seconds in the 63rd minute. It seemed like the momentum was going to swing in favor of Ohio State, but Pewu was determined to get the team back in the win column and scored his second goal of the game in the 66th minute.
“It was very important that we got the momentum back,” Pewu said. “My thought process was it’s an even game again and we have to get back on top.”
This was not the end of the game, as there were still 24 minutes left. Ohio State managed to muster five more shots in those 24 minutes, with four of them not getting near freshman goalkeeper Omeed Naeemy. The one shot that did reach him was in the 90th and final minute, but Naeemy was determined to get the win and was able to make the save.
“Usually if I concede a goal, I just forget about it,” Naeemy said. “It happened, it’s past, it happens to everyone, so I just try to keep calm and help the team as best as I can. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 89th minute or the first minute, I just don’t want to concede a goal.”
Cleveland State would claim a victory over Ohio State for the second season in a row, by a score of 3-2. The Vikings were able to continue their winning ways when they took on Duquesne and posted a 2-0 win, without allowing a shot on goal the entire game. In these back to back wins, as well as the rally that the team had to take Cincinnati to overtime, head coach Sinisa Ubiparipovic sees the team following the mantra that they wanted to have start the season
“It shows a lot of character and personality as well as resilience,” Ubiparipovic said. “In the preseason, we wanted to be a team that’s difficult to play against, but also impose our style of play as much as possible. So far, the players have reacted to what we have asked them to do, and I’m pleased with their overall approach and what they have given to the program so far”
As the second half of the season gets underway, the schedule turns to a focus on conference play, and they are very important games for the Vikings this season. The team took on Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on Oct. 19, in a matchup between then fourth place Cleveland State and third place IUPUI. After a scoreless first half, Pewu would score in the 65th minute to put the Vikings in the lead for his team leading seventh of the season. A goal by senior Thomas Bielanski in the 85th minute would put the game away, and Cleveland State would win their third straight game. In the preseason, the Vikings were voted to finish eighth out of nine teams in the conference. However, with the win over IUPUI, Cleveland State moved into third place in the conference, and they are only four points out of first place.
The remaining four games see Cleveland State going against the two teams ahead of them in the Horizon League standings, Oakland University and University of Illinois – Chicago, as well as Wright State University and the University of Akron, who reached the NCAA Championship game last season. Out of the four remaining games, three of them will be played at the friendly confines of Krenzler Field, where Cleveland State is currently undefeated for this season.
“We just need to stay humble, we need to keep working hard and keep doing what we’re doing,” Kareph said. “We can’t take a minute off because if you take a second off during a game, that’s when everything can change.”