BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – The Bowling Green State University men's soccer team got the 2012 season started on a successful note, blanking Saint Bonaventure University, 3-0, on Saturday night (Aug. 25). The match, the regular-season opener for both teams, was held at Cochrane Field.
Danny Baraldi, Brandon Silva and Ryan Comiskey scored for the Falcons in the win, while goalkeeper Michael Wiest and his teammates picked up the shutout.
The win came before a crowd of 2,076 at Cochrane. That attendance figure is the second-largest single-game total in the last 15 years, trailing only the crowd of 2,133 for last season's opener (a 2-0 win over Michigan).
Baraldi gave the Falcons the lead for good, scoring with 19-and-a-half minutes gone in the match. Junior Anthony Grant started the play, as he was taken down by a Bonnie defender in the penalty area, on the right side of the 18-yard box. With play continuing, Grant got to his feet, won the ball back and slid a pass across the six-yard line toward Baraldi. Baraldi, running to meet the ball, shot across his body, and his one-time effort eluded the reach of SBU goalkeeper Ben Cowman and found the far corner of the net.
Less than a minute after Baraldi's goal, the visitors nearly tied the score. A BG foul gave the Bonnies a free kick just outside the penalty area, on the right side. James Reed took the kick, and drilled a shot that hit either Wiest or a defender. The ball trickled across the goalmouth, and Brad Beumont arrived at the left post, but could not keep the ball from rolling just wide of goal.
The Bonnies had another chance to knot the score with under nine minutes left before halftime. After a BG giveaway in the defensive zone, Wiest made a diving stop to deny Brad Vanino. The Falcon 'keeper dove to his left to stop Vanino's offering from approximately 15 yards out.
Three minutes remained in the half when senior Joey D'Agostino blasted a shot from distance that went only just wide right. Less than a minute later, Comiskey put sophomore Vlad Lekarev through on a give-and-go play, but Lekarev was ruled to be just offside. The Falcons took a one-goal lead into the intermission.
The second half saw the Bonnies take five of the first seven shot attempts of the period, including a header by Emmett O'Connor that was not far off the mark, but it was BG's Grant who had arguably the best scoring chance during that stretch. Senior Chris McLean found Grant with a diagonal pass, and the junior headed into the box on the right side. His shot from 12 yards out rolled just wide of the far post in the 59th minute.
Zach Lemke was stopped on the doorstep by Cowman, after Lemke had been the recipient of a McLean entry pass. The Bonnies had a flurry midway through the period, but back-to-back shots were blocked by the BG defense. Under a minute later, the Falcons had doubled the lead at the other end of the field.
After weathering that SBU flurry, the Falcons went on the counterattack, and Cowman took Comiskey down as the BG forward came into the 18-yard box with a head of steam. A penalty kick was awarded, Silva converted the kick at the 69:49 mark, and BG had a 2-0 advantage.
With 12 minutes left, Lemke ripped a shot that went just wide of the upper-right-hand corner of the goal. But, under two minutes later, the Falcons attacked again. A BG defender played a long ball forward, and Cowman came out of the penalty area in an effort to beat Comiskey to the ball. Cowman reached the ball first, but his clearing effort sliced toward the left sideline.
McLean settled the ball and played it to Comiskey, who headed toward goal on a two-on-one advantage. With freshman Ryan James to his right, Comiskey made several moves to gain space, then fired a low shot that beat Cowman to his left. The goal all but sealed the deal with 10:28 left.
SBU had several chances thereafter, including a shot by Daniel Iannacito that was blocked off of the goal line by a BG defender, but the Bonnies could not get on the scoreboard. Wiest's shutout was the seventh of his career, and the junior made seven saves to match his career best.
For Wiest, the shutout was his fifth in eight career starts at Cochrane Field.
The shot totals were relatively even, with the Bonnies holding a slim 16-15 in total shot attempts. SBU put eight shots on goal to BG's four, but Wiest and his defenders were equal to the task. Cowman had one save for the visitors.
Saturday was 'Alumni Night' for the Falcons, and the throng of over 2,000 fans included a number of former BGSU men's soccer standouts. One former Falcon men's soccer legend in attendance was Mel Mahler, who spent 17 years with the Falcons as an assistant coach and a head coach. Mahler's career head-coaching record at BGSU was 111-76-13, and he guided the Falcons to three Mid-American Conference regular-season championships, three league tournament titles and three-straight trips to the NCAA Championships from 1995-97.
The 2012 Falcons are home again on Wednesday (Aug. 29), facing Michigan State University in a 7:00 p.m. start at Cochrane Field. BG's season-opening three-match homestand concludes next Saturday, Sept. 1, when the Falcons host Marshall University in another 7:00 p.m. match.