Bearcats make surprising playoff appearance, fall in semifinal
As the Men’s Soccer CUNYAC playoffs inched closer, many were weary that a 1-3-2 conference record would not be enough for the Bearcats to advance. The team miffed on many opportunities to win games throughout the season and now it is feeling the squeeze. Heading into their final regular season CUNYAC match, the Bearcats needed a win over York College and added help via a win from the College of Staten Island who was pitted against sixth-seeded John Jay.
The Bearcats left no doubt on their end; they unleashed their best offensive attack of the season on the unsuspecting Cardinals. Sensing the immense pressure, Colby Aranibar wasted no time getting to the net, recording the first goal of the match in less than two minutes.
Teammate Shaiem Morad warned against playing complacently despite the early lead and proceeded to channel his inner Leo Messi, leading the Bearcats with a hat-trick. While only a freshman, Morad’s first of three goals was a sensational “shake and bake” of numerous York defenders as he marched into the goalie’s box and struck the ball with confidence into the back of the net.
Aranibar was back in action for his second goal shortly after, as Juan Galvez, Marcello Neto and Jaime Zurro all mopped up goals of their own. By the time Galvez came around to score, the score was already 7-0 and the Bearcats were practically taking practice shots. Galvez wound up to the ball from 25 yards out and connected on a precision shot that dropped right past the goal marker. The icing to the cake of their biggest win of the season came when the Bearcats received word that the Dolphins of CSI had struck paydirt, trumping John Jay in a brutal defensive match that was decided by the final score of 1-0. The improbable was now a reality and Baruch found itself leapfrogging the Bloodhounds to confiscate the sixth and final seed in the CUNYAC tournament.
The team was back in action shortly after, as it took on third-ranked City College of New York in the quarterfinal round. The Bearcats looked to carry any reserve momentum into Randall’s Island where the Beavers of CCNY were vying for a spot in the semifinals.
The first half of the game was an offensive struggle for both sides as the defenses battled to turn the ball over to their respective teams. The Bearcats’ new-look high-octane offense from their last match had since subsided, as both teams headed into intermission with a blank scoreboard. However, it was a tale of two halves as the Bearcats kicked off the second leg, looking to turn the table on CCNY. Neto looked to break the deadlock for the Bearcats on a free kick, which he elegantly placed into the corner of the goal, beyond the reach of the Beavers’ goalie. Seemingly igniting the fire of the Bearcats’ offense, Neto’s goal gave way to two more back-to-back goals from the support of Oshae Miller and Shaiem Morad.
The Bearcats had managed to put together three goals in a short 10-minute span and they now had CCNY on alert. Responding with their last-chance effort, Stephanos Hondrkis and Syed Haider of CCNY looked to make a comeback, netting two quick goals and cutting the Baruch lead to a single point.
Weary not to let the glaring opportunity slip away, the freshman forward Dortion Alipaj played with ice in his veins, muting the pressure and netting the fourth and deciding goal of the match.
The upset was complete—Baruch’s fairytale season was alive and well for at least another game.
Next up for Baruch were the Hawks of Hunter College, with the winner advancing to the CUNYAC Championship. The Bearcats were startled in the limelight, as they surrendered a goal in the first minute of the game, which was played at the Brooklyn College Soccer Complex.
Once again, Alipaj looked to save the day when he knocked a header past the goalie shortly after in the third minute. The Bearcats struggled to find the net despite recording six shots on target compared to just three by Hunter. The deciding goal came late in the first half, as the Hawks’ Itamar Pereira executed the “give and go” with teammate Jacob Gorodetsky to score the winning goal. The second half was uneventful, as the final whistle faded into the October afternoon and along with it, the Bearcats’ championship aspirations.
Despite a valiant effort, Baruch fell one step short of the final. Nonetheless, the Bearcats played tremendously against all odds, especially the younger talent on the team. With the departures of senior captains Xavier Carillo and William Rosales among other veterans, the teams should nonetheless remain in good hands thanks to the infinite potential of freshmen Morad and Alipaj.
Still, the seniors will have one last opporunity to take the field when they go up against the Maccabees of Yeshiva University. The unusual post-playoff-elimination matchup will take place on Nov. 11 in Teaneck New Jersey. The two were scheduled to face off on Oct. 14, but the match was postponed upon the request of Yeshiva. Emotions will run high as some lace up their cleats for the final time before handing the torch of to their younger counterparts.
The Hawks will face off against the top-ranked Lehman Lightning in the CUNYAC Championship on Saturday, Oct. 5.