ATHERTON, Calif. – Friday afternoon marked the first game of the regular season for No. 22 Menlo College Men's Soccer, the first game on their quest to repeat as GSAC champions. While the opener may not have been in conference play, the Oaks drew a tough opponent in RV Southern Oregon. After losing their opener against The Master's University yesterday, the Oaks were able to power their way past the Raiders on Friday. Axel Helmertz scored his first collegiate goal and Eric Hegmann added a pair en route to a 3-1 win for Menlo in its season opener on home turf.
Neither team broke in the first half, though the Oaks showed plenty of bend, but no break. Southern Oregon dominated on the stat sheet during the entire half, but the Menlo defense would not allow anything in the back of the net. Julio Naranjo got the start in net for the Oaks and was not tested heavily despite making four saves in the opening half, including one spectacular save. On what could have been a rifle of a goal from Brendan Allen, he fully extended himself on a dive to his right and batted the ball away. It set up another corner kick, one of eight in the opening half for the Raiders. Menlo tallied three of their own, and never had a surefire look. The closest they came was on one of those three corners, where Adam Fenyvesi let go a header from the scrum in front of the net, but it sailed just wide of the post. Important to point out that Alex Avila played a large role in the opening half, deflecting and blocking several shots as the backline did its job.
The Oaks came out and played better in the early going of the second period. After getting out shot 10-4 in the opening half, Menlo registered the first three shots of the second half. But it came in the form of a corner kick from Leonardo Barcellos where the Oaks were able to break through. He took the corner from the Menlo sideline and got it towards his teammates in front of the net. After it pinballed around, Fernando Menera sent one towards Raiders keeper Wyatt Zabinski that was tossed aside, but on the rebound, Axel Helmertz squared up and put one in the net for his first collegiate goal. Right at the 57th minute, the Oaks took the 1-0 lead. Just 4:35 after that, Menera was at it again, quickly turning a defensive stand into an offensive attack. With Eric Hegmann running alongside, Menera led Hegmann to the top of the box and with Zabinski coming out to challenge, he went too far. Hegmann saw he was in between directions and fired one over his head to score his first goal as an Oak to make it 2-0.
Suddenly, momentum shift over to the side of the Raiders, and they got back in the match. Kelly Gieber for the Raiders got Southern Oregon on the board coming off of a corner from Sean McManamon, sneaking one past Naranjo who never stood a chance. Less than two minutes later, a foul on Helmertz set the Raiders up at the top corner of the box in their offensive zone. An odd tactic saw them create a huddle around the free kick spot, with McManamon fooling everybody to take the kick. It was on its way to the bottom corner of the post but somehow, Naranjo dove to his right and used the mitt to swat the ball free and keep the Oaks in front with 24 minutes remaining.
Just when it seemed like the Raiders might be able to get something together in the waning moments, Menera and Hegmann hooked up for the second time on the day. A backhand flick from Menera set up Hegmann to sneak another past Zabinski and make it 3-1, the way the ballgame would finish. Evan Snodgrass picked up his first assist as an Oak on the play as well.
Menlo will hit the road for the first time in 2017 on Monday afternoon with a match against UC Merced. The Oaks and Bobcats will tangle on the 28 in Merced at 3:00 PM before returning home on September 1 against No. 20 Rocky Mountain College.