The 22nd-ranked Oglethorpe men's soccer team made sure they wouldn't have to share their fifth straight SAA regular-season crown Saturday night, shutting out the visiting Berry Vikings 4-0 to secure the league title outright. It served as the 27th consecutive victory in a conference game for the Stormy Petrels, meaning that the senior class that was honored during Senior Night festivities prior to the game at the Oglethorpe Track and Field never lost an SAA contest during their four years.
The win also improved the team to 12-3 overall to close out the regular season, and a perfect 7-0 in SAA play. It marked the second consecutive year in which the Petrels won all seven conference games.
The game started out relatively even over the opening 25 minutes, with each team earning a couple of scoring chances. In fact, the Petrels only outshot the visitors 7-6 over the opening half of play. However, it was the Petrels who dented the scoreboard and grabbed hold of the game over the latter part of the first period.
A Berry hand ball gave Oglethorpe a dangerous free kick in the 27th minute, and senior forward Gabe Alvarez stepped up to take it. He hit a blistering shot that the Berry goalkeeper was able to save off the crossbar. The ball ricocheted into the path of oncoming sophomore midfielder Affonso Temporal, though, and he calmly slotted it into the back of the net to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Oglethorpe doubled their advantage not long before halftime, as senior forward Ryan Marcano sent a nice through-ball to freshman forward James Williams which put the latter on a breakaway. Williams finished past Berry goalkeeper Baker Hoyt to give his team a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute.
The Petrels poured it on in the second half, outshooting their opponent 10-3 over the course of the period. They all but put the game away in the 56th minute, taking a 3-0 lead. The Viking defense was able to clear the ball out of the box, but only as far as senior midfielder Andrew Grodhaus, about 25 yards from goal. Grodhaus fired a long-range effort past Hoyt to give his team the three-goal advantage.
The home side finished the scoring in the 79th minute, as senior defender Christian Waegelin fired a perfect cross in from the right that found the foot of Alvarez. Alvarez had no trouble putting it past Hoyt to expand his team's lead to 4-0.
For the game, Oglethorpe outshot Berry 17-9 overall and 9-6 on goal.
Freshman goalkeeper Ulises Rodriguez had to make several saves, especially early on. He recorded four saves in the opening half and five for the game en route to his eighth victory of the season.
The Petrels honored 10 seniors prior to the contest. Goalkeeper Scott Zoino, forward Hudson Fennell, forward Matt Ward, defender Sebastian Carlson, forward Julio Prieto, midfielder Josh Bronstorph, Marcano, Alvarez, Grodhaus and Waegelin all received recognition prior to the game for their careers as Stormy Petrels.
Oglethorpe holds the No. 1 seed in the SAA tournament, and will host the to-be-determined No. 8 seed in the tournament's first round on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 2. If they get through that game, they'll host the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament the following weekend.