With the UAA league title in their back pocket, the men’s soccer team had one thing on their minds as they walked onto the pitch for their last regular season game – perfection.
They left with exactly that, as they completed an undefeated season with an impressive 4-1 victory over Case Western Reserve University this past Saturday. The win gives them a record of 16-0-0 in the regular season and 7-0 in league play.
Early in the match, the Case Western defense gave UR’s forwards some aggravation by playing a high restraining line. This made it difficult for UR to create scoring chances without being flagged for offsides. The tactic worked well, as the Yellowjackets committed 17 offsides penalties in the game.
“We were frustrated early,” head coach Chris Apple said, “but we knew it was a matter of time before we broke through and got a few breakaways.”
Apple’s team broke through in a big way late in the opening half with help from a group of offensive substitutes. With just over 10 minutes left in the half, senior Damian Hallatt ripped a shot from 18 yards out into the bottom right corner of the goal to give the Yellowjackets the lead.
The rest of the first half belonged to sophomore Patrick Ripp. In the 39th minute, he scored an unassisted goal that gave UR a 2-0 cushion. Less than five minutes later, with time winding down, Ripp punched in a header off a shot that Case Western goalie Chad Skidmore saved but couldn’t control. Freshman Sean Hantes was credited with the assist, his second of the game.
Hallatt, Ripp and Hantes were all late first half substitutions by Apple, and they gave the offense a much needed spark.
“Those guys made an immediate impact,” Apple said. “They were dangerous right away and created some great scoring opportunities.”
The second half started off with a flurry of offensive activity. Forty-seven seconds into the half, Case Western got a goal from Kevin Bigart that cut the UR lead to 3-1.
However, rather than shrink back into a defensive mode, the Yellowjackets took the kickoff and went right down the field. Less than a minute after Case Western had scored, senior Nate Micklos took a great pass from sophomore Jeremy Mann and beat Skidmore for the final goal of the game.
UR’s 16-0-0 regular season record earned them a bye in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
On Saturday, they will host a second round match against either St. Lawrence University or Medaille College. The game will be played at West Irondequoit High School.An undefeated season is a great accomplishment in its own right, but consider the circumstances. UR plays in a league that has three other nationally ranked teams, and half of the league has qualified for the NCAA tournament. Playing in a league as difficult as the UAA makes the feat nothing short of remarkable.
UR has compiled some impressive statistics over the course of the season. They have outscored opponents 54-11, and scored on more than 20 percent of the shots they have taken. The team has also played disciplined soccer, racking up fewer fouls and yellow cards than their opponents.
Micklos has powered the offense with 15 goals and 10 assists – both were team highs. Sophomore goalie Paco Corbalan has been superb in the net averaging .6 goals allowed per game and six shutouts.
The team will savor their undefeated season for now, but everyone knows they cannot let it go to their heads with the tournament just a few days away.
“We got the job done at Case and now our entire focus is on the NCAA tournament,” Micklos said. “Everybody is very excited about the opportunity we have and we are prepared to do everything we can to make the season last as long as possible.”
Moeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.