ATHERTON, Calif. – While the academic Fall Semester might not begin for another six days, the Menlo College Oaks Men's Soccer squad suited up and held their home opener on Tuesday night at Wunderlich Field. The opposition was the runner-up for the title in the California Collegiate Athletic Association in 2015: the CSU Stanislaus Warriors. Members of the NCAA Division II, the Warriors were out to prove a tall task for the Oaks to handle in their season opener. Eric Bucchere's bunch was up to the challenge, scoring twice in the opening half and playing solid defense in the final 45 minutes to earn a 2-1 victory to begin the 2016 campaign.
Things looked mighty fine for the Warriors early on in the match after scoring first in the 17th minute off the right foot of Alejandro Sanchez. He was able to get positioning past Menlo keeper Alex Coates-McDowall and beat him with a shot that snuck inside the crossbar and past the dive of Coates-McDowall. Jose Acosta was credited with the assist on the strike and the Warriors led first at 1-0. It would be the only mistake the Oaks defense and Coates-McDowall would make all evening.
Six minutes later, Eli Bunton was able to sneak one past the Warriors goalie Patrick Colombana for the first goal of the year for Menlo. It came on a cross from David Beary, and Bunton had the fast-track past his defender. Colombana came out and tried to take the ball away from Bunton was too tardy, as Bunton had already softly let one go off his leg. A Warrior defender was in the net and made a diving effort to keep the ball from entering, but he as well was late in his quest. While things settled down for a handful of minutes, it would be the 40th minute that proved magical for the Oaks. Sophomore Luis Nunez took a pass up-field from Beary and once he got inside the attacking third decided to fire a rocket from inside the red line. While Colombana had time to make his leap, the shot was rifled past the keeper and cornered in the top right region of the post. The impressive blast from Nunez was his first after tallying six in his freshman year and put the Oaks up 2-1.
Stanislaus State outshot the Oaks by a count of 15-9, but Coates-McDowall was able to make seven saves en route to earning his first victory of the season. In addition, 8 of 15 shots for the Warriors were on frame while Menlo hit 6 of 9 on the net. So while the shots were in favor of the Warriors, Menlo was able to hit a higher percentage on target and their chances were more legitimate. The second half saw Menlo controlling the pace of play and limiting the amount of scoring opportunities for the Warriors. A game that saw a fair amount of pushing and shoving, fouls were nearly even with the Warriors committing 13 and 12 for the Oaks.
Menlo College will hit the turf at Wunderlich Field once again on Saturday morning as they host Willamette for a clash at 11:00 AM, part of a men's and women's doubleheader. Stanislaus State will return home for a pair of exhibition matches before their season kicks off on September 1st against Fresno Pacific.