Heady Play Helps Men's Soccer Take Opener

Friday, September 2, 2011

Volleyball, cross country, field hockey

Josh Luginbuhl
Luginbuhl's goal just 2:19 into the game was the Mules' quickest to start a season since 2001.
Luckily for the Muhlenberg men's soccer team, it had the services of a Squire and a Spartan in its season-opener against Cortland State.

Junior midfielder Nate Squire tallied a goal and an assist, while classmate Kyle Plifka, who played high school soccer for the Sparta Spartans, also scored and headed away what would have been the game-tying goal with less than 10 minutes to play to help the Mules slay the Red Dragons, 3-1.

Muhlenberg wasted little time getting on the board as Squire found senior Josh Luginbuhl in the middle of Cortland State's defense unmarked.

Squire hit his red-haired teammate in stride with no one between him and the keeper, and Luginbuhl took care of the rest to put the Mules up 1-0 less than three minutes into the game.

"Lugi's known for getting in the right position, and you can't miss that red hair streaking down the center," Squire said. "So I just popped one over to him. He's been finishing all preseason, so I figured he wouldn't let us down tonight."

"It's always nice to start out fast," Luginbuhl added. "Being that wide open can be a little nerve-racking because you have no excuse if you miss. When you're in that situation you've got to put it away, and luckily I was able to strike it well."

The Red Dragons (0-1) responded quickly, however, scoring less than 10 minutes later to tie the game at one. That's when the Mule offense turned a pair of costly Cortland State fouls into what would prove to be the deciding goals.

Kyle Plifka
Plifka's goal, the third of his career, was also his third in the last seven regular-season games.
After Luginbuhl was fouled on a breakaway in the 28th minutes, Squire drove a direct kick from around 25 yards over the Dragon wall and into the left side of the net to put the Mules back in front, 2-1.

Sixty-six seconds later, sophomore Jacob Joseph sent a free kick into the box that found a streaking Plifka, who drilled a header into the right side of the next to send the Mules into the locker room with a 3-1 lead.

But any comfort from the two-goal cushion was quickly erased when the Mules were whistled for a handball in the box two minutes into the second half. The Red Dragons converted the penalty kick to pull to within one.

From there the two teams traded missed opportunities. Muhlenberg hit a post, the crossbar and had multiple shots saved from point-blank range. Cortland State, meanwhile, kept applying pressure and appeared ready to tie the game on a bicycle kick at an open net in the 83rd minute.

But once again, Plifka was there with his noggin to clear the ball away and preserve the win.

"That's just the kind of player he is," Luginbuhl said of Plifka. "He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time, and that play saved us."

While the win may have been a little closer than the Mules had hoped, Squire said it might have been a good thing to have a close test right out of the gate. Adding that it created a sense of urgency and showed the team it will have to fight for every win.

"It was a little bit of a wakeup call because last year we cruised early," he said. "But it got us going and got that competitive spirit back in us. I think we'll come out tomorrow night ready to go and put forth a much better effort all around. Of course we'll always take a win no matter how we get it."
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