Despite playing its home games on turf, the Franklin & Marshall men’s soccer team enjoys having the chance to get on a grass field from time to time.
The Diplomats proved that, loud and clear, Wednesday night when they dominated Elizabethtown, 4-1, in a non-conference win on the Jays’ grass pitch.
“Huge game for us,” said F&M coach Dan Wagner, who is now one win shy of 200 in his 18-year career at F&M. “This is a really special place. Hallowed ground to play soccer so we’re excited by the result.”
The Diplomats (3-1), ranked No. 12 in Division III, established control of the game early and spent much of the opening half pushing the action in the Jays’ half of the field.
After a couple early scoring opportunities, Shay Adamson found the back of the net in the 24th minute for a 1-0 Diplomats lead. Later in the half, Steven Yakita made it 2-0 when he blasted one past Elizabethtown keeper Kevin Del Cid.
In the opening half, the Diplomats had seven shots on goal compared to just one for the Blue Jays.
“I asked them at halftime if they could be ruthless,” Wagner said. “We’re up by two and if you score another one, you’re going to be able to enjoy the rest of the game. If not, this could go either way.”
Warwick grad Alex Lalovic answered that question in the sixth minute of the second half, when he dove and chested a perfect crossing pass from Rob Maze into the net for his first goal of the season and a 3-0 Diplomats lead.
“Alex was phenomenal, he was fantastic,” Wagner said. “He’s really a special player."
Lalovic added a second goal five minutes later pushing the lead to 4-0.
“We played unbelievable,” said Lalovic, a junior who had four goals last season. “I think this was the best we’ve played all season so far.”
Lalovic is one of four Lancaster-Lebanon League alums playing for the Diplomats this season, including senior defender Connor Whitacre (Conestoga Valley), sophomore forward Brandon Perezous (Warwick) and freshman midfielder Tyler Wagner (Lancaster Mennonite).
The Blue Jays, meanwhile feature five L-L grads: senior midfielder Connor Rathsam (Lancaster Catholic), sophomore defender Jordan Sweger (Lampeter-Strasburg), and three freshmen, defender Kyler Enck (Donegal) and forwards Ryan Hepler (Hempfield) and Robby Krasinski (Conestoga Valley).
Avoiding the shutout
JD Haaf got the Blue Jays (1-2-1) on the board with a goal in the closing minute of the game. It was his second of the season.
Elizabethtown finished the game with only three shots on goal, while F&M had 13.
Battle of the Boot
With the win, the Diplomats retained possession of the Smith-Herr Bronze Boot, given to the winner of the annual meeting since 1977.
The boot is a soccer shoe originally worn by Al Hershey, a two-time All-American at Elizabethtown who later coached both the Jays and the Diplomats.
“This was huge,” Lalovic said. “There’s a lot of history in this game and we love playing on this grass field.”