The UR men’s soccer team had their dream season cut painfully short Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. St. Lawrence University used an offensive explosion in the second half to defeat the Yellowjackets by a score of 3-1.
What made the loss even tougher to swallow is how dominant UR was in the first half. Just three minutes into the game, junior Jeremy Mann took a corner kick from sophomore Nico Mikolenko and snuck the ball inside the left post to give the Yellowjackets a 1-0 lead.
They could have added to that lead in the 29th minute. A header by senior Nate Micklos found the back of the net, but the goal was called back because of a foul. UR continued to create chances throughout the rest of the half, but they could not pad their lead.
“We attacked early and really could have been up by two or three goals at the half,” head coach Chris Apple said. “We missed a few good opportunities.”
Those missed opportunities would prove to be costly in the second half. Where UR had dominated in the opening half, SLUbegan to turn the tables. The Saints created more offense and began winning more challenges.
In the 54th minute, SLU’s Jason Koshi broke free, dribbled around UR goalie Paco Corbalan and slid a ball into the goal. However, the goal was disallowed and for the moment UR kept their slim lead.
The play of the game came from Corbalan two minutes later. Ian Fairlie of the Saints had a wide-open shot at the top of the box, and put the ball on a beeline for the top right corner of the net. Corbalan reacted quickly and dove for the ball, but the shot looked to be too fast to get to. He got a fist on the ball, however, and managed to punch it wide, sending the UR fans into a frenzy.
That frenzy would not last, as SLU broke the game open by scoring three goals in 18 minutes.
The first goal came in the 66th minute when Koshi took a long pass, beat a defender and ripped a shot into the back of the net. Ten minutes later, Sean Charles took a corner kick for the Saints and put a header past Corbalan to give SLU the lead.
The final goal came with less than seven minutes to play. Another SLU corner kick found its way to Steve Watson and he one-timed the ball into the net to essentially seal the win for the Saints.
While the season may have ended on a sour note, it has been one of the best ever for the Yellowjackets. They finish the season with a 16-1 record, 7-0 in UAA league play. In addition, they won the UAA league title, breaking Carnegie Mellon University’s stranglehold on the crown. The Yellowjackets also set a school record for wins in a season.
As dominant as they were on the pitch, the players did not slouch in the classroom either. For the season, the team carried a 3.48 GPA.
UR had five first-team UAA selections, along with two honorable mentions. Micklos was named UAA player of the year for the second consecutive year and the team is sure to come away with more accolades when the regional and national awards are announced at the end of the season.
For the seven seniors on the team, Saturday was their last game in a UR soccer jersey. Apple had nothing but praise for his senior class.
“The senior class set a new record for wins in a career with 58,” he said. “More than that, they have led this team with their work ethic, their empathy, their inspiration and their courage.”
Continuning, he said, “They are an amazing group of people and our entire team salutes them.”
Moeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.