LANCASTER, Pa. - Franklin & Marshall's No. 21 ranked men's soccer team held on for a clutch 1-0 Centennial Conference (CC) win over Gettysburg on Wednesday evening in Lancaster.
The Diplomats improved to 11-2-2, 4-1-2 CC with the win and provided themselves with some breathing room in a crowded CC Playoff picture, while the Bullets fell to 7-5-1, 4-3 CC.
Each team spent the opening minutes trying to find their rhythm before the Diplomats took over possession in their offensive third. F&M generated its first scoring chance in the 14th minute when Ryan Corr settled a Diplomat corner that sailed to the opposite sideline.
The senior defender threaded a low cross to the center of the box that was fired on net by A.J. Kopacz, but a Gettysburg defender stepped in front of the attempt and deflected the ball wide.
In the 19th, Jim Connolly found space along the end line and lofted a well-placed cross into the center of the six-yard box that found the head of Alex Lalovic. However, his try on net careened off the crossbar and out of play.
The Diplomats' offense was rewarded for their dominance in possession with a 27th-minute score by Ugo Okolie - his second of the year. Ryan Fincher was the catalyst behind the goal, sending a short cross into the center of the box. Okolie beat his defender in the air and struck pay dirt with an accurate header to the top-left for the 1-0 edge.
At the end of the first, shots favored F&M at 8-4, along with corners at 6-1. The Diplomats held the ball throughout while their defense steadily cut off Gettysburg passing lanes and limited quality scoring chances.
Holding on to its one-goal advantage, F&M nearly added on in the 57th minute when Connor Whitacre sprinted down the far side and slid a low pass over to Steven Yakita, whose right-footed strike narrowly missed to the right of the post.
Gettysburg threatened late with pressure in the Diplomats' defensive zone and nearly knotted the score off a deflected header in the box with a little more than a minute remaining. However, the Diplomats' defense held tough for the win.
After 90 minutes of play, the shot count belonged to F&M at 15-11, along with corners at 7-2. Okolie led the offense with three shots, while Alex Lalovic, A.J. Kopacz, Ryan Fincher, and Connor Whitacre were credited with two each.
Sebastian Jenkins (4-0) registered four saves to earn the shutout win for the Diplomats, while Thomas Keane (4-4) turned back a pair of shots and was charged with the loss after allowing the first-half tally.
F&M continues CC play on Saturday, hosting Washington College and celebrating Senior Day at 1:00 p.m. on Tylus Field.