WINONA LAKE – A free kick goal from Breno Oliveira lifted Grace’s men’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory on Tuesday in the season opener against Rochester.
Oliveira’s 20-yard free kick beat Rochester’s goalkeeper in the 62nd minute for the game’s only goal.
The Lancers (1-0) recorded their first shutout of the season with Kurt Hamlin making two saves in 90 minutes of action as goalkeeper.
The first half started timidly for both teams, particularly for the Lancers in their first half of action. Grace outpossessed the Warriors (0-2), but Rochester limited Grace’s threatening opportunities.
Both teams entered halftime scoreless, but the Lancers were far from prepared to settle for a draw.
It did not take long for Grace to find its offensive rhythm in the second half. Just three minutes after halftime, the Lancers threatened. Ulisses Miranda got a shot off inside the penalty box and beat the goalkeeper, but his shot glanced off the goalpost. The rebound fell back to Miranda, but his close-range shot was saved.
Minutes later Miranda had another shot in the box that sailed above the crossbar, and Marcelo Talamas also missed high.
Not long after, Oliveira tried a free kick from the left side of the field that was headed off a goalpost by a Warriors’ defender.
The chances came at a furious pace for Grace throughout the second half. Over the final 45 minutes, Grace outshot Rochester 17-4.
The game-winning moment originated from the attack of Togo Narusawa, who was fouled at the edge of the penalty box. Oliveira stepped up and bent his free kick around the wall and into the back of the net at the 61:45 mark.
Rochester had a handful of chances in response, looking for an equalizer. But Grace’s defense proved up to the task. Josiah Osborn, Ivan Santagiuliana, Romain Chantrel and Joshua Coupar were solid protecting Grace’s net after halftime.
Grace nearly added to its tally multiple times in the final minutes, most notably with a pair of shots from Cody Boerema which were blocked. Oliveira also had a cleverly curled shot that whizzed just outside the far post.
For the match, Grace held a 19-10 shot advantage. The Lancers also had a 6-1 edge in corner kicks.
“I’m happy for the win, but overall we didn’t produce the result we were hoping for. We know that we can do better to execute on our opportunities. We missed a lot of chances in front of the goal, and I thought that messed with our psyche a bit,” said Grace head coach Matt Hotchkin. “It’s early in the season, and we will just have to work on our finishing touches. But credit to their keeper for some fantastic saves as well. Now we prepare for a tough weekend schedule with two excellent teams. Thanks to all who came out to support us tonight!”
The Lancers travel to Kentucky this weekend for a two-day tournament. Grace will play No. 9 Lindsey Wilson on Friday at 7 p.m. and Florida National on Saturday at 7 p.m.