LANCASTER, Pa. – A.J. Kopacz notched a pair of goals, capped off by a 72nd-minute penalty shot marker that delivered No. 13 Franklin & Marshall a 2-1 win over Muhlenberg in the Centennial Conference (CC) opener on Saturday.
The home victory was the Diplomats' fifth-straight win and improved their record to 6-1, 1-0 CC while the Mules fell to 5-1-1, 0-1 CC.
Both team's offenses wasted little time establishing their presence in the opening half. F&M got the action started with the game's first marker in just the fourth minute. Kopacz tallied his fourth tally of the season, taking a short through pass from Alex Lalovic in the box and landing a turn-around attempt into the lower right of the goal.
The Diplomats' 1-0 edge was short-lived as Muhlenberg responded a little more than a minute later to even the score. A breakaway opportunity along the right flank led to a close-range shot from the Mules' Stephen Carton, which found a home far post.
With just four minutes remaining in the half, F&M nearly retook the advantage when Seifu Zerabruk found open space on the left side of the box but missed high with his opportunity on net.
At the break, the shot count favored the Diplomats by a 5-3 margin, as well as corners at 3-0.
Eight minutes into the second half, a Muhlenberg foul just outside the lower-left of the 18-yard box led to an opportune freekick for F&M. Steven Yakita lofted a shallow cross to the far post to Max Geuder, but his header missed just to the right of the post.
The Diplomats kept up the pressure on Muhlenberg's defense and were rewarded in the 72nd minute when a costly Mules' foul on the right side of the box led to an F&M penalty shot. Kopacz made good on his attempt, notching his second score of the game to put the Diplomats in front for good.
Goalkeeper Christopher Amoruso (6-1) earned the win after registering two saves while his counterpart Lance Lysiak (0-1) suffered the loss with two goals against and three saves.
Shots favored F&M at 13-6 for the game, including an 8-3 edge in the second half. Christian Avila Neres led the way with three shots, followed by Kopacz and Geuder with two each.
F&M returns to the field on Wednesday, hosting William Paterson for a non-conference tilt at 7:00 p.m.