CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland State University men's soccer team was undone by a 10-minute stretch in the first half and suffered 4-2 setback to Oakland in its home finale Saturday evening at a rainy Krenzler Field.
Oakland scored three times between the 24 and 34 minute marks, and CSU was never able to fully recover. As a result, the Vikings lost to the Golden Grizzlies for the first time in the past four regular-season meetings.
CSU had three changes to its starting XI from its previous match, one of which was necessitated due to the injury that Tommy Paltani suffered last time out. DiFranco was back in the lineup after coming off the bench in the last match while junior Hayden Parente and redshirt freshman Austin Mitchell both made their first starts of the season. Junior Vlad Jandric, who had a brace in CSU's win at Oakland last season, remained sidelined with an injury.
The first shot of the match came in the 17th minute, and it was a good chance for CSU. Junior Lawrence Karpeh dropped into the midfield to receive a pass, turned and dribbled forward toward the center of the pitch. He put a pass into the run of senior Noah Pio on the left flank, but Pio's shot was deflected and went wide of the far right post.
Oakland scored on its first two shots of the night. In the 24th minute, a right-wing cross was flicked inside the left post from close range. In the 31st minute, a shot from inside the box deflected off a Viking defender and into the net.
The Golden Grizzlies continued their surge fewer than two minutes later as the ball was blasted in from close range after a scramble following a corner kick.
The Vikings got one goal back before halftime when they kept a corner kick alive. After a corner was partially cleared, the Vikings sent the ball back toward the box. Junior Thomas Bielanski slipped a low pass to Pewu just inside the penalty spot. Pewu turned and slotted a shot into the lower left corner to increase his team lead in goals.
Cleveland State had a couple of chances to cut into the Oakland deficit within the first 10 minutes of the second half, but it was the visitors who would score first.
In the 52nd minute, Pio's left-wing cross just eluded Karpeh before the ball was sent back in from the right flank to Pio at the back post. The senior tried to score from a tight angle, but the keeper was able to fall on the ball after the shot was deflected. A couple minutes later, Pio dumped a ball over the back line to Pewu. The goalkeeper came out to challenge, and Pewu popped his shot over the goalie but it also sailed over the bar.
Oakland would strike in the 56th minute, utilizing a header directly off a corner kick.
However, the Vikings refused to quit. Pewu was taken down in the box by the goalkeeper as he chased down the ball in the 70th minute. DiFranco took the subsequent penalty kick and found the net on Senior Night.
In the 85th minute, a cross was knocked down, and the ball sat just outside the box. Bielanski hit it first time and just sent it wide of the right post. That proved to be CSU's last real chance to get back into the match.
Each team took 13 shots in the match. Cleveland State has not been outshot in any of its seven Horizon League matches.
Mitchell made four saves in net in his collegiate debut. Mitchell and Parente became the 24th and 25th Vikings to start a match this season.
Bielanski's assist was his first point of the season.
Cleveland State will close the season Friday, Nov. 2, at Detroit Mercy.