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Men's Soccer: In Battle of Ranked Teams, Defense Shines Again as Warriors Take Down Babson for Tenth Shutout

Men's Soccer: In Battle of Ranked Teams, Defense Shines Again as Warriors Take Down Babson for Tenth Shutout

MANSFIELD, Conn. --Freshman Ryan Sirois (Tolland) and sophomore Patrick Agyemang (East Hartford) scored a minute apart late in the first half and junior Kyle Boutot (Tolland)  posted his sixth full shutout of the season as Eastern Connecticut State University blanked Babson College (9-5-2) in men's soccer Tuesday night at Rick McCarthy Field.

Ranked ninth in New England, Eastern (14-2-0) improved to 8-0-0 this year at home, defeating Babson (9-5-2)  for the third straight time at home. Babson is ranked No. 7 in New England and was facing its sixth opponents ranked in this week's New England Top 10.  Eastern is now 2-0-0 against teams ranked regionally this week, having shut out sixth-ranked WPI, 1-0, Sept. 4 at Worcester.

Sirois scored his fourth goal of the year from the left side of the box with 14:19 left in the first half when he wound up and drilled a low shot into the right corner of the goal, and, 68 seconds later,  Agyemang took over the national lead with his 19th goal of the year (28th of his two-year career) on a 25-yard free kick from the top of the box that glanced off a Babson defender as it cleared the wall and carried inside the left post. Agyemang also leads Division III with 44 points.

While Sirois and Agyemang were the offensive heroes, the Eastern defense once again took center stage, shutting out its opponent for the tenth time in 16 starts.  Boutot lowered his goals-against average to 0.72 this year and 0.14 at home by making six saves on ten Babson shots. In eight home starts, last week's Little East Conference Goalkeeper-of-the-Week has allowed one goal in 643 minutes, that coming midway through the first half of a 4-1 LEC win over UMass Dartmouth a month ago. In those eight starts, he has been called upon for only 22 saves, thanks to a defense which includes starters Will Toomey (Willington), Emmanuel Agyemang (East Hartford), Jared Caroline (South Windsor), David Noel (Armonk, NY), Brendan D'Arcy (West Hartford), and Nick Starkowski (Marlborough) (the latter two missing significant time due to injury), among other key players off the bench. Noel was returning to the lineup after missing six games after being elbowed in the head in a 3-2 LEC win at UMass Boston Sept. 28.

As expected when two teams allow a goal or less by its opponent this year, defense ruled in the rain Tuesday night, with the teams combining for only four shots in the second half when the misty rain made the surface slippery. The only two legitimate chances of the second half both came from Babson sophomore forward Robert Dunne. Midway through the period, Dunne came off the bench, took a crossing pass from senior midfielder Luke Beaulieu  on the right wing and launched a missle which caromed off the crossbar and carried out of the box. With Babson still trying to cut into Eastern's lead with 15 minutes left, Dunne drove the ball toward the upper part of the goal, where Boutot leaped and got a piece of the ball, which then clanged off the crossbar and over the end line. Consecutive corner kicks by Babson produced nothing, however, as the Eastern defense was equal to the Beavers' late charge.

 The teams combined for 16 first-half shots, with Boutot coming up with five of his six saves on seven Babson shots over the first 45 minutes. The Warriors unloaded nine of their ten shots in the match in that first period. In the opening minutes, senior midfielder Justin Jensen (Wethersfield) sent a volley wide of Babson senior keeper Steven Heintzelman, and three minutes later, Sirois one-touched Jensen's cross over the crossbar.  In the minutes before Sirois and Agyemang connected for the only goals of the match, Babson had two chances but came up empty. Senior forward Alex Crompton sent a volley over the crossbar, and soon after, freshman midfielder Ryan Grund hammered a free kick from 25 yards toward the left post, where Boutot dove to knock over the end line. Babson then commited a foul on the resulting corner kick and Eastern answered five minutes later with Sirois' second goal in two games and  first career game-winner.

At right: Andres Mayuri (Photo by Olivia Puleo)

Jensen pulled into a tie for the team lead with his seventh assist on Sirois' goal, with Agyemang gaining credit for his sixth on the play, as well. The scoring play began when freshman midfielder Andres Mayuri (West Hartford) chipped the ball into the box, where a Babson defender got his head on it. The ball landed at the feet of senior forward Griffin Luczek (Lee, NH), who carried briefly before passing the ball to Agyemang on his left. Agyemang quickly one-touched it with his left foot to his right to Jensen. Between two defenders, Jensen slid the ball across the goal mouth. A sliding Eastern player could not get his foot on it and after a Babson defender was unable to knock it down, it carried all the way to the left side to an open Sirois. With the goalkeeper coming out to defend the short side, Sirois sent it to the far side inside the right post.

Boutot's long goal kick over midfield set up Agyemang's free kick goal a minute later. Mayuri headed Boutot's kick ahead to Agyemang, who was fouled (with a yellow card being assessed) while trying to win the ball against two defenders at the top of the box. He drove his free kick through the defensive wall to give the Warriors a two-goal advantage.

Babson dominated with a 14-1 advantage in corner kicks, including 11-0 in the second half. Seven of its corners came in the final 15 minutes.

A winner of four straight, Eastern hosts Framingham State University on Seniors' Day in its final regular-season home match next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. before visiting Plymouth State University in its LEC regular-season finale in search of an eighth conference regular-season title under 13th-year head coach Greg DeVito.