(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The last sequence of St. Bonaventure’s 1-0 overtime victory over Dayton on Senior Night had just about everything: controversy and chaos, agony and exultation, all in an 18-yard box.
Was Dayton’s deflection of sophomore midfielder Kosi Nwafornso’s initial shot a handball that would have resulted in a penalty kick? Did the game-winning goal by Nwaforno’s classmate, Isaiah Wilson, actually go in?
Bona coach Kwame Oduro certainly thought the answer to both questions was yes.
“We’re glad that a bounce went our way, for the first time,” Oduro said with a laugh.
With a little over three minutes in OT, Nwafornso unleashed the shot that referee Dino Sorbara determined had not been stopped with a Flyer hand. The ball found its way to junior mid Kieran Toland, whose shot was also blocked. Dayton was not able to clear the ball on either occasion, setting Wilson up for another opportunity.
The third time was the charm, as Wilson’s shot rattled off the crossbar and found its way over the line for just long enough before caroming back out.
Sorbara and his assistants conferred to make sure they had gotten the call correct, then confirmed it with a “good goal” signal.
A frenzy ensued as the players ran around the field mobbing each other and Dayton coach Dennis Currier emphatically argued the call, to no avail. Senior defender Bonaventure Akinlosotu was one of the most fired up fourth-year guys, dancing around and high-fiving everyone watching from the fence. The 6-foot-3 Akinlosotu missed a large portion of time to injury over his career, but was a major factor in the victory, providing an immediate boost the instant he entered the contest.
Somewhere in the scrum, sophomore goalkeeper Luke Iacobellis was receiving some well-deserved recognition for keeping the brown and white level throughout regulation. The Toronto native made seven saves, all crucial to preserving a tie until overtime.
With 15 minutes remaining in the second half, Dayton freshman forward Bennett Lehner was able to get past the defense in the attacking third and find himself on a breakaway. Iacobellis came out of his net to meet Lehner, and was able to stop the shot with his foot to extinguish the best chance of the game for either side.
Kick save and a beauty. Kick save and a potential season saver.
“He made three or four saves that actually kept us in the game,” Oduro said. “I think he had a complete performance today.”
Last year, the Bonnies lost six one-goal games. This year, they have won three of that variety.
“I think we’re starting to mature as a group, and when you mature and get experience as a group these games go your way sometimes,” Oduro said.
Oduro described the victory as a gift to seniors Akinlosotu, Eddie Keen, Matthew Lane and Noel Orozco for the hard work and dedication they gave to Bonaventure soccer.
“We told them, there’s no gift we can give you that’s going to be worthy of winning the game today and making it into the A-10 playoffs,” he said. “I told our team, if you’re ever tired, think about those seniors and what they mean to this program. We gave them a gift that no one can ever take away from them.”
The second gift, a trip to the A-10 Tournament, is becoming within reach. Bona is now in a four-way tie for the fifth spot with Duquesne, Fordham and VCU and two points ahead of eighth-place UMass. The top eight teams qualify for the tournament. Three conference games remain, the next being a home match against George Washington on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s not done yet… the A-10’s wide open,” Oduro acknowledged. “Our team, we only care about what we can do.
“People will write you off any day. (The team is) doing the right things, playing the right way, and it’s going to go in your favor sometimes.”