With only three weeks left in their regular season, the UR men’s soccer team is taking every effort to win a coveted NCAA tournament berth. This week they were faced with two regional opponents, Nazareth College and St. Lawrence University. A victory and a tie, respectively, have improved the Yellowjackets record to 8-3-2.
On Wednesday night, in the pouring rain, the Yellowjackets quenched the Golden Flyers of Nazareth 3-1 in a convincing victory. This was a big win as Nazareth boasted a record of 9-2 entering the game and were sitting right behind UR in the regional rankings. Head coach Chris Apple commented, “We had control for the entire game, despite the relatively close score.”
Senior forward Jacques Appleby got things rolling only 15 minutes in when he converted a penalty kick to give UR the lead, into his fourth goal of the year. The Yellowjackets were awarded the penalty kick after Nazareth goalkeeper Steve Hogan mauled senior forward Mike Chen at the edge of the box. However, the Golden Flyers managed to sneak a goal in before halftime with a well-taken volley from 20 yards out.
In the second half, the Yellowjackets came out hard and strong and did not ever look back. Junior midfielder Nick Wheeler capped off some outstanding ball movement by UR with an accurate volley from 10 yards out. Later in the half, Wheeler turned provider for senior midfielder Matt Lilienfeld, when he sent in an early cross for Lilienfeld who took one touch and blasted the ball past a helpless Hogan.
Apple complimented both teams for a “hard fought, cleanly played local rivalry.” UR outshot Nazareth 22-6 and junior goalkeeper Brian Minehan was only forced to make 3 saves.
The Yellowjackets then faced the St. Lawrence Saints and put forth one of their best performances of the year. The Saints are currently ranked 19th in the nation, but on Sunday it was the Yellowjackets that were the better team. Unfortunately, despite their 20-7 advantage in shots, 6-0 advantage in corner kicks, and two overtime periods, UR was unable to escape a draw. “Every player on our team played great, they left everything they had on the field,” Apple said.
Junior defender Mike Springer answered the Saints opener when he finished a rebound from freshman forward Nate Micklos’s “howitzer” free kick from 30 yards out. The score was knotted at 1-1 where it would stay for the remainder of the 110 minute game.
In the second half, the Saints began submitting to the pressure from the Yellowjackets as nearly the entire half was played in UR’s offensive zone. UR peppered St. Lawrence goalkeeper Jordan James with shots for the remainder of the game. James came up big to deny Wheeler’s pinpoint header in what Apple described as the “best save I have seen all year.” Controversy arose when Micklos was felled in the box and the referee elected not to award a penalty.
The game ended in a tie, but heads remained high as the Yellowjackets need to remain focused on the task at hand. The task ? nationals. In the middle of the week the team received a letter from the NCAA, explaining that the Yellowjackets are one of the teams that the Div. III tournament committee is looking at for its at-large bid. Furthermore, the NCAA told UR that they have a good chance of making the tournament if they win the rest of their games.
This weekend the Yellowjackets are on the road to play Washington University in St. Louis and University of Chicago. They return home on Wednesday, Oct. 30 to play 16th ranked SUNY Brockport on Fauver Stadium at 7 p.m.
White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.