LANCASTER, Pa. – Ugo Okolie's goal in the 67th minute broke a scoreless tie and handed the No. 4 Franklin & Marshall men's soccer team an exciting 1-0 win over Swarthmore to open Centennial Conference (CC) play Saturday at Tylus Field.
The Diplomats remained unbeaten on the year at 7-0, 1-0 CC, while the Garnet fell to 3-4, 0-1 CC.
Knotted at 0-0 midway through the second half, F&M finally capitalized on one of its many scoring chances in the game, when a long Conor Pellas pass around midfield was corralled by Okolie from 25 yards out. The freshman forward played the ball of his chest before dribbling in and landing a right-footed shot into the back of the net, his fourth of the young season.
Seven minutes remained on the clock when Jason Tonelli found wide open space in the box and nearly tallied the dagger. However, Swarthmore's goalkeeper Tyler Zon (1-3) made a spectacular diving stop to his left, getting his fingertips on the attempt and sending the ball clear of danger.
The Garnet nearly notched an equalizer with two minutes remaining in the game when Michael Natziger sent a rocket from 20 yards out that sailed wide left of the net.
Despite neither team lighting the scoreboard in the first, the opening half of play provided an entire game's worth of theatrics and action. In the 21st minute a foul at the top of the box led to an early penalty kick opportunity for Devon Malfitano and the Diplomats. Swarthmore's head coach took objection to the referee's call and was subsequently dealt a red card and ejection from the contest.
Zon guessed correctly on Malfitano's attempt and sprawled out for the clutch diving stop. A chippy opening 25 minutes of play calmed down in the back half of the first, as shots were knotted at 4-4 heading into the break.
F&M led in shots by a 9-5 margin in the game, as well as corners by a 6-3 mark. The Diplomats controlled possession for just over 32 minutes of the game, and completed 57 percent of their passes, compared to 53 percent from Swarthmore.
Trevor Britton (7-0) stopped the only shot he faced for his fourth shutout of the season, while Zon was charged with the loss, despite his four-save effort.
Okolie, Tonelli and Connor Finn paced the offense with two shots each, while Billy Evers led the Garnet with a pair of shots.
The Diplomats take to the road on Tuesday, traveling to Stevenson for a 4:00 p.m. non-conference tilt.