CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — It took a bit longer for things to get rolling but, once they did, it was business as usual for the University of Rio Grande.
The RedStorm scored in the waning seconds of the opening half before adding four second half markers en route to a 5-0 win over Ohio Christian University, Thursday afternoon, in River States Conference men’s soccer action at Trailblazer Field.
Eduardo Zurita had a pair of goals and Samuel Pedersen had two assists for Rio Grande, which improved to 14-0 overall and 7-0 in the RSC with the victory.
The RedStorm, ranked No. 3 in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll, can clinch the league’s regular season title with a win at Asbury University next Thursday.
Ohio Christian slipped to 4-10 overall and 1-5 in league play with the loss. The setback also officially eliminated the Trailblazers from postseason contention.
Rio Grande outshot its host, 11-3, in the first half – four of which hit either the crossbar or the post – before finally breaking the scoreless tie with just 14.3 seconds left before halftime.
Sophomore Callum Malanaphy (Stourbridge, England) punched in a shot off a touch from Pedersen — a sophomore from Aldershot, England — to culminate a frantic scramble in front of the net.
Zurita, a senior from Sant Boi de Llobregat, Spain, scored the first of his two goals off an assist from fellow senior Harry Reilly (Coventry, England) just under 9-1/2 minutes into the second half and the lead reached 3-0 thanks to an own goal by OCU with 20:34 remaining.
Sophomore Connor Paine (Cornwell, England) made it 4-0 with 11:24 left to play when he found the back of the net via a pass from senior Harry Robinson (London, England), while Zurita set the final score off an assist by Pedersen with 1:23 remaining.
Rio Grande finished with a 25-4 edge in shots overall and 11-2 cushion in shots on frame. The RedStorm also had all 12 of the game’s corner kick chances.
Junior keeper Richard Dearle (Castle Donington, England) had two saves in the winning effort for Rio, including a dazzling stop late in the opening half to keep the match scoreless.
OCU net-minder Eric Fahrer had seven stops in a losing cause.
Rio Grande’s game at Asbury next Thursday is set for 7 p.m. in Wilmore, Ky.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.