Homecoming weekend was not the best weekend for most Castleton University sports teams. The men’s soccer team, however, secured their most exceptional victory of the season.
“That night is always the hardest night for me because you want to send them off the right way” Coach O’Connor said, “my kids grew up with those guys.”
Senior defender Thomas Kirk has played all four years under O’Connor and said it was a privilege to put on the green and white.
“I’ve gotten really close with Coach O’Connor, he’s like a second father to me. I can’t ever thank him enough for the opportunities he has given me, and for all the lessons he has already taught me.” Kirk said.
The Spartans were going up against the Keene State Owls, who were undefeated in conference play heading into Saturday’s matchup.
It was very intense early on, both teams had their chances to score. It was a very aggressive affair, with a lot of fouls being called throughout the game.
“Personally, I love games like that” Kirk said, “I love battling against a good technical and physical team.”
The Spartans went down 1-0 in the seventeeth minute of action. The Spartans defense did not handle the pressure in the moment very well.
“We got kind of bum-rushed on that goal.” O’Connor said.
Heading into the second half with the team down 1-0, O’Connor was still pleased with how the team was playing.
“We had chances…we were playing well.” He said.
Four minutes into the second half Seraphin Iradakunda scored a goal to level the score at 1-1, assisted by sophomore midfielder Jacob Godfrey. Keene St. defender Jack Herlihy then fouled Iradakunda twice, which earned him a red card in the fifty-fourth minute.
“I thought the red card deflated them,” O’Connor said.
Spartan fans let the Owls have it at that moment, chanting: “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”
“I thought our guys handled themselves very well, and much better than Keene did” Kirk said, reflecting on the aggressiveness of the game. “We didn’t let a feeling of complacency set in with a goal and man advantage.”
Once the Spartans were up a man, they began to apply even more pressure to the Owls. In the seventy-first minute Jack Kingdon scored to take the lead, was assisted by Kirk. After the goal and into the later minutes of the game two fights almost broke out.
“There were definitely times where some of our youth showed.” Kirk said.
The Spartans won their homecoming/senior game 2-1, while handing Keene St. its first LEC conference loss of the season.