“You have to be able to win ugly,” N.C. State men’s soccer coach Kelly Findley said. And Monday night’s conditions were just that.
The Wolfpack got the game’s only goal on Roland Minogue’s first-half penalty kick, and junior goalkeeper Alex McCauley made it stand up with four saves for his third shut out of the season as N.C. State blanked William & Mary 1-0.
The match was played in a driving rainstorm at Dail Soccer Field, but neither the conditions nor the Tribe (2-2) proved too much for the Pack (2-1-1). It was the kind of sloppy conditions where one mistake might make the difference, and it did.
In the 23rd minute, Wolfpack midfielder Travis Wannemuehler slotted a pass into the penalty area for Zach Knudson, who was tripped up by goalkeeper Bennett Jones as they converged on the ball.
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Minogue, a sophomore midfielder, stepped up and deposited the penalty kick into the left corner of the net at 22:31 for the lead and the first goal of his career.
State coach Kelly Findley said he let the players on the field determine who would take the kick.
“We have a hierarchy of three or four players,” he said, although one of them, sophomore midfielder Michael Bajza, wasn’t in the game at the time. “I’ll let a guy step up and win the game for us.”
Each team took nine shots, and each goalkeeper registered four saves as conditions dictated a low-risk approach. McCauley wasn’t hard-pressed in the opening half, but he made back-to-back saves on close-range shots by Chris Albiston and Jackson Eskay 14 minutes into the second half.
“Every time you come out here when it’s raining and cold, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” McCauley said. “You need to be safe with everything.”
He credited his back-line defense with deflecting most of the threats.
“They were incredible,” he said. “It’s such a big difference in organization and control from a year ago, to pull a win out in conditions like this. I was only called on a couple times.”
William & Mary had an excellent opportunity with 10 minutes remaining when the Wolfpack fouled trying to clear a corner kick, but Josh West’s low drive on the free kick was wide right from 20 yards.
Ade Taiwo had N.C. State’s best two scoring opportunities in the second half. He was wide right on a bicycle kick from 12 yards in the 46th minute, and Jones deflected his fast-break attempt in the 88th minute.
“A year ago we wouldn’t have won this one,” said Findley, whose Wolfpack will open ACC play Friday at No. 21 Wake Forest. “We had to grind it out against a senior-led team.”
William & Mary was coming off a 4-0 win over an ACC team, Pittsburgh, and had won two in a row. State was missing center back Conor Donovan, who is training in Argentina with the U.S. Under-20 men’s team.
Moss Jackson-Atogi, a senior and two-year starter, took his place, and the defense remained airtight.
“I thought Moss stepped in and did a great job,” Findley said. “He’s a senior, and it’s nice to have a veteran there.”