LEWISBURG, Pa. – Joe Meyer scored on a beautiful left-footed strike just over six minutes into the match and then set up Jesse Klug for an insurance goal in the 80th minute to send Bucknell to a 2-0 victory over Loyola Maryland in a Patriot League men’s soccer match before a spirited crowd Wednesday night at Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium. The Bison improved to 7-3 overall and 2-1 in the Patriot League, while Loyola fell to 5-4-2, 0-2-1 following its first-ever trip to Lewisburg.
Three of the top four goal-scorers in the Patriot League were on the field in this one. Loyola’s Larry Ndjock came in with eight goals in eight games, putting him in a tie for the national lead in goals per game, while Bucknell’s Klug and Chris Thorsheim ranked third in the Patriot League with five goals apiece. Klug pushed his total up to six, and Thorsheim had a terrific game at center midfield, just missing a goal of his own when he rang the right post in the 30th minute.
A big key to victory for Bucknell was keeping Ndjock in check. Last year’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year was limited to just one shot, a 40-yarder that sailed well over the goal with 55 seconds left in the match. Central defenders Mayowa Alli and Connor Willings were stalwarts, keeping Ndjock out of harm’s way. Outside backs Meyer and Brian Ward helped neutralize Loyola’s dangerous wings Connor Thompson and Stephen Dooley, who ranks fifth in the nation in assists with six on the season. Head coach Brendan Nash also praised midfielders Josh Butzke and Sebastiaan Blickman for working back to help out defensively.
“I told the guys that was our best effort of the season,” said Nash. “It was a total team effort. Everybody from Michael [Lansing] up to Jesse [Klug] did what they were supposed to do today. We worked very hard in the second half to get the second goal, and Joe [Meyer] and Jesse were rewarded for their hard work. We know how special [Loyola is] at attack and outside midfield. We wanted to concentrate on defense first, and the whole team worked very hard to keep them off the board.”
Bucknell pressed aggressively and won numerous balls in the middle of the field, and one of those plays led to the early goal. Patrick Figgie forced a throw-in on the right side, and Willings’ long throw into the box was headed away by the defense. Loyola advanced the ball to Ndjock, but he was quickly double-teamed by Meyer and Willings. Meyer took possession, sliced through a handful of defenders and struck a perfect left-footed shot into the left side netting from 18 yards out. For Meyer it was his first goal of the season and third of his career.
Junior Mark Leibensperger has seen his minutes climb in recent games, and he was outstanding from end-to-end in a reserve role. He nearly set up a goal later in the first half when he dribbled to the end line and centered a pass to Thorsheim in the box. Thorsheim’s whirling shot had the keeper beat, but it solidly struck the right post. Later, Leibensperger checked all the way back to his own end line to make a tackle that resulted in a Bucknell goal kick.
Not long after the Meyer goal, Bison keeper Mike Lansing was called upon to tip a long service from Thompson over the crossbar. His next tough save did not come until 13:35 remained in regulation, when he needed quick reactions to steer Diego McQuestion’s hard shot from close range wide of the goal.
That kept it a 1-0 game, and then with 10:26 to play the Bison put the game out of reach. Josh Butzke sent a pass wide for an overlapping Meyer coming from his right back position. Meyer dribbled about 50 yards down the right flank before squaring a pass into Klug, who one-timed a low shot off the fingertips of keeper Zach Kane and into the back of the net.
With about eight minutes left Lansing made a diving save on David Warburton’s long strike and Ryan Tuck headed in the rebound, but he did so from an offside position and the goal was disallowed.
Bucknell finished with an 18-9 shot advantage and a 7-4 edge in corner kicks. Kane made six saves for Loyola, while Lansing stopped four shots en route to his sixth shutout of the season. It was also the 11th career shutout for the Bison sophomore, moving him past Paul Green into seventh place on Bucknell’s career list. Lansing and the Bison have posted clean sheets in five of the last six matches.
Bucknell is one of four teams tied for second place with six points in the Patriot League standings. Army blanked Colgate 1-0 on Wednesday to improve to 3-0 and get to nine points. One of the other teams at 2-1 in league play is American, and the Bison will visit the Eagles on Saturday at 1 p.m.