With a little more than six minutes remaining, a Southwestern player gained control of the ball at midfield and booted it high and deep into the Fredonia end towards the right corner. Having played the last 12 minutes down a man due to a red card, it was simply a maneuver to ease the pressure and give his Trojan teammates a fleeting breather.
The moment, it seemed, was innocuous enough.
What no one counted on, however, was Tristan Desnerck.
Southwestern’s Tristan Desnerck celebrates after scoring a short-handed goal in the second half of Thursday’s Division 1 soccer game against Fredonia. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Desnerck, sprinting to beat the Fredonia defense to the ball, made an ordinary play extraordinary when, as a pair of defenders descended on him, he lofted a shot from the far right edge of the 18-yard box that floated over the outstretched arms of leaping Fredonia goaltender Nick Hart and into the net.
For a moment, disbelief shone on Desnerck's face. After that he and his teammates were all smiles.
"It's just one of those things where it went in," Southwestern coach Mark Sleggs said. "Sometimes just by putting it on net (the ball will find a way in)."
The goal, coupled with Ross Beresford's earlier tally at 24:33, sealed a Trojan victory, 2-0, over visiting Division 1 foe Fredonia, and provided some much-needed breathing room the rest of the way for a squad that was forced to play the last 20 minutes of the game shorthanded.
All together the referees handed out four yellow cards ("more than we've had in three years," Sleggs said) and one red (to Kyle Radack).
Given those circumstances, and the fact that Fredonia (3-3, 1-2) had won each of the squads' last two meetings, Sleggs, whose team is now 6-1-1 overall and 3-0 in league, was relieved to come out on the winning side.
"The thing about our league is the games are all like this," he said. "Sometimes you're going to be on the other end of the ledger. The thing I've learned is that this game is such a darn humbling one. The only thing you can say after a game like this is that you're thankful that you came out on the plus side and you also know that it could have not happened this way."
The result was still very much in doubt following a first half in which Fredonia managed to completely shut down the Southwestern scoring attack up the middle.
"We played a really good first half," Fredonia coach Jeff Walker said, "and I think we did a really good job of controlling the game. We kind of had them on their heels, but we just seemed to drop off a little bit (in the second). I don't know why or what happened or what changed, the tide just kind of changed a little bit."
According to Sleggs, it was just a matter of getting his players to work together.
"I think both teams were trying to control the middle and as a result nothing got done," Sleggs said of the opening half. "At halftime I told the guys that it appeared like we were looking for somebody else to do it. I told them that they needed to use each other."
Taking those words to heart, Southwestern made better passes, allowing them to pepper Hart with shots over the first 20 minutes of the second. The Trojans racked up eight shots before Beresford finally broke the scoreless tie when he drilled the ball mid-bounce from just inside the box into the back of the net.
"We played well, they played well," Walker said. "It was a well-played game by both teams. They just popped in a couple of good, outside goals that caught us off guard. They were good rips."
NOTES: Due to his ejection, Southwestern will be without Radack on Tuesday when they play host Olean, a squad tied atop the Division 1 standings with the Trojans. ... Desnerck's goal was his sixth of the season while Beresford scored his seventh. ... Fredonia managed just three shots on goal over the course of the game, each of which was stopped by goalie Eric Priester.