WILMINGTON – St. Mark’s soccer team stuck with one of Division I’s best on Sept. 14, but Wilmington Charter’s pressure proved to be too much for the Spartans. The Force broke open a 1-1 contest with two late goals and went on to a 3-1 victory.
The teams were tied at a goal each after Anthony Rocco scored for St. Mark’s in the 47th minute. Rocco was one of several Spartans in the crease with Force goalkeeper Matthew Bowen, and after a confusing scramble, the ball rolled over the goal line. After the referees consulted with each other, the goal stood.
The Spartans, playing a much more energized brand of soccer in the second half than they had in the first, kept even with the Force, ranked third in Division I by 302Sports.com. They had a chance to take the lead in the 50th on a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, but the Force’s wall made the block.
The Force regained their momentum shortly thereafter, keeping St. Mark’s on its toes. They had four quality chances in a five-minute span but could not take the lead. First, St. Mark’s goalkeeper Sean Lenderman rejected Graeme Newcombe. A minute later, Lenderman stoned Michael Bantum from close range. The keeper also made a nice punch save, and another opportunity disappeared when the Force headed a shot wide of the net.
Newcombe put his team ahead in the 67th minute. He took a corner kick from Anthony Barbieri and headed the ball to the right of Lenderman to make it 2-1. The Spartans, ranked seventh in Division II, nearly knotted the score a few minutes later, as Michael Rangean headed a centering pass from Rocco toward the net, but Charter keeper Matthew Bowen dove for the save.
Barbieri picked up an insurance marker for the Force just after that. He intercepted a clearing attempt, deked around a defender and sent a shot low with success.
Charter showed its pedigree early in the match, keeping the ball for nearly all of the first half. Despite the advantage, the Force were not able to get too many shots on net. In fact, Lenderman did not have to make a stop until the 13th minute, when Charter sent a free kick in his direction.
That shot, however, got Wilmington Charter going. Another free kick, this one from 25 yards, hit off one of the football goal posts. A header off a corner kick hit the football crossbar. The hard work paid dividends in the 26th, as Justin Lane drilled a header into the back of the net off a corner kick from Barbieri, who figured in all three Force goals.
St. Mark’s, which finished with seven shots, fell to 2-1. Lenderman kept them in the game with 12 saves. The Spartans are home on Tuesday against Polytech at 4 p.m.
Charter sent 15 shots on goal, and the Force had four corner kicks. The Force (3-0) are off until Wednesday, when they travel to MOT Charter for a 3:30 p.m. start.