By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Ethan Witkowksi is not playing at 100 percent.
It’s scary to think what is possible when the Monroe Community College forward gets to full speed.
Witkowski scored twice on Wednesday including a spectacular shot in the 82nd minute for the game winner as the Tribunes rallied to beat the Mercyhurst University JV squad, 2-1.
With his back to the goal, the 6-foot-2 sophomore took a throw-in along the right flank. He found the opposite side netting with a turnaround volley if such a thing is possible, from 18 yards away.
“When it bounced, it hopped up perfectly right in the area where I like to volley it,” Witkowski said of the game winner. “I came over from the side. Obviously, I could see the goal, knew where it was and I kinda knew where the goalkeeper was.”
The tally stunned the tiny rain-soaked crowd at John L. DiMarco Field.
“I opened my hips and I could see the goal out of the corner of my eye,” he added. “I just wanted to lay it in there. If it scored great. If there’s a rebound great, but I was definitely going for the net.”
— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) October 11, 2017
The goal gave the Tribunes their third straight win, but it was not without some early difficulty.
“They were a little overconfident,” Monroe coach Nelson Cupello said referring to his squad’s 5-0 victory over the past weekend. “We played like all we had to do is step on the field, and it’s going to happen.”
Mercyhurst’s Massimo Buscema slipped one by Tribune goalkeeper Christopher Wadsworth in the fifth minute to give the Lakers an early lead.
“We started off pretty slow and cracked under the pressure at the beginning,” Wadsworth said. “We definitely need to work on that.”
“None of the blame is on him for the goal,” Cupello said of his freshman keeper. “It was more on the defenders. No one put a body to the guy. They gave him a chance to just kinda walk in.”
Wadsworth returned the favor, though, stopping Buscema on a breakaway later in the first half and again inside the box on a point blank attempt in the second half.
Witkowski beat Alfredo Gallo on a free kick from 20 yards away to level the match with less than 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
“It was raining a little bit in the first half obviously,” Witkowski explained. “I knew I wanted to skid it on the ground because it’s difficult for the goalkeeper to gauge when it’s bouncing like that when it’s wet.”
Witkowski found a sliver between the Mercyhurst wall and the far post. He again tucked it into the side netting.
“I just wanted to put it on the ground and it went in,” he explained. “It went as planned.”
After seeing limited time in the first two games of the season because of an injury suffered during the summer, Witkowski sat out the next eight matches before coming off the bench on Saturday.
“I’m just happy to be back,” the LeRoy High graduate said. “It was a lower abdominal injury that kept me out for the first two-thirds of the season basically. It was tough getting back into it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play or if I was going to redshirt. I’m happy I’m back.”
With four games remaining in the season, he joins a lineup finding its rhythm in time for the postseason.
“I’m glad for him,” Cupello said of Witkowski who transferred to Monroe after the University of Buffalo dropped its soccer program last January. “Last Saturday it took him a little bit to get going. I don’t think he’s 100 percent back, but he’ll be ready come Districts I hope.”
Monroe hosts Genesee Community College next Thursday.