SARANAC LAKE — NCCC's men are determined to play competitive soccer this season following a one-year hiatus. The young Saints have experienced some early growing pains, but have since won two of their last three matches after taking down Tompkins Cortland on Sunday.
The 3-1 victory followed a tough 6-0 loss to Cayuga the day before also on home turf.
Denilson Reyes led NCCC's offensive charge, finishing with two goals and assisting on the team's other tally scored by Alex Aguirre. Reyes and Aguirre staked the Saints to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals scoring during an 8-minute span in the opening half.
Despite owning a 17-3 edge in shots, NCCC found itself in a battle with TC3. Trailing 2-0, the Panthers cut their deficit to a single goal when they were awarded a penalty kick with four minutes left in the opening half, and Nathan Stuart cashed in, sending a low shot into the right corner of the net past Saints keeper Alex Romano to make it a 2-1 contest at halftime.
Reyes, however, came through with the lone goal of the second half, scoring 14 minutes into the second as NCCC improved to 2-3. The Saints earned their first victory of the season on Wednesday, topping Finger Lakes 5-3. The Panthers fell to 0-2, a record that includes a 4-1 loss to Clinton Community on Saturday.
"The guys played hard; they always do," said David Clayton, who took over the men's soccer program in March. "We have all freshmen, so it's been tough with a few games. We've played some top-ranked teams, and it's good that these guys keep fighting and fighting. It's good to see for sure. We don't give up on any ball. Everyone works hard to get the ball back.
"Our passing is a little suspect but we're working on that through the midfield," Clayton added. "Defensively we're strong and we have some really good attackers. We have some local guys from Chazy, and Chateaugay that do a really good job for us, and a couple of Saranac Lake guys, you can't forget them."
Cecunjanin, who is actually a sophomore at NCCC but in his first year with the team, said things are starting to come together for the Saints. A forward in his high school days, Cecunjanin was a defensive standout on the pitch Sunday.
"He beasted it today," Clayton said.
"It's been a slow start, but I think we're picking it up now," Cecunjanin said. "Everyone is getting to know each other and we should be getting better and better. Today, I think we just started interconnecting our passes going through the middle, exploring new options. We moved up the field."
The Saints men and women will be at home again for another doubleheader Wednesday against Jefferson. The women kick off the action at 2 p.m. with the men's match scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.