The UR men’s soccer team kicked off its postseason play this past weekend, blowing past the Keuka College Storm, 3-0, on Friday night and then avenging its regular season loss to Hobart College with a 2-0 victory on Saturday night.
The ‘Jackets got a big boost from sophomore forward Scott Cady, who scored goals in both of the games and also did a good job of capitalizing on free kick opportunities, putting them in the Sweet 16 for the first time under head coach Chris Apple.
The Yellowjackets started strong against Keuka, who entered the game 10-6-1. Cady put UR on the board in the third minute, when he converted a header off a free kick taken by senior midfielder Patrick Ripp. It was the first of four free kicks that the ‘Jackets would convert into scores over the weekend.
The early goal allowed the ‘Jackets to establish themselves against the Storm, who were held to only one shot in the game thanks to a dominating effort by the UR defense and aggressiveness in the midfield.
The second goal for the ‘Jackets came with 10 minutes left in the first half. Again, UR was awarded a free kick just outside its box. The kick was a low shot into the box that was bounced around in front of Keuka goalie Mike Meskill. Finally, sophomore midfielder Hans Julianus found the back of the net, putting the ‘Jackets up 2-0 going into the half. The goal was Julianus’s first of the season.
The final goal of the game came yet again off a UR free kick that was a result of a foul just outside of the Keuka box. The foul earned the Storm a yellow card, one of five cards given during the game.
The ‘Jackets capitalized; sophomore defender Phil Proud tapped the ball to senior midfielder Matt Sulkin, who blasted a shot past Meskill into the top left corner of the goal. The goal came with just over 16 minutes left in the game and solidified the victory for the ‘Jackets.
UR Sophomore goalie Michael Peacock was in net for the majority of the game and was forced to make only one save. With four minutes left, the ‘Jackets put in senior goalie Paco Corbalan. Corbalan began the season as the UR starting goalie, but broke his cheekbone midway through the season and ceded his spot to Peacock, who has only allowed seven goals in the 16 games he has played in.
Hobart also won on Friday night, beating SUNY Fredonia, 3-0, in the game that followed the UR-Keuka match. Hobart had gotten the better of the ‘Jackets early in the season with a 1-0 win and came into Saturday’s game boasting a 12-4-3 record. On Saturday, however, they were no match for the ‘Jackets, who won the physical battle and controlled play en route to a 2-0 victory.
The scoring did not start until the end of the first half. Again, UR took advantage of a free kick opportunity. The free kick was sent in front of the net, where it was headed on net. Hobart goalie Pete VanDellon came out to grab the header and got caught in the traffic in front of the net, leaving junior forward Sean Hantes free to head the ball into the back of the net, putting UR up 1-0 going into halftime.
The ‘Jackets sustained pressure throughout the first half, putting four shots on net and amounting four corner kicks. On the other side of the field, Hobart was unable to find a rhythm thanks to strong play by the UR defending core of Proud, senior Nick Mikolenko and senior Eric Meister. The ‘Jackets didn’t allow a corner and only gave up two shots in the first 45 minutes.
In the second half, Hobart earned six corners and amounted five shots but was again unable to sustain any real pressure. UR again took control of play.
In the 52nd minute, Ripp and Cady connected again. This time, Ripp carried the ball up the right side of the pitch and sent a cross into the box that looked like it was going to be broken up by VanDellon. Cady got to the ball first, however, heading the ball past the Hobart keeper to give the ‘Jackets a 2-0 cushion.
Peacock came up huge for UR late in the second, when Hobart was finally able to maintain some pressure. With three minutes left, he made a save point blank on a Hobart attacker that preserved the shutout. Peacock finished with six saves.
The ‘Jackets’ next game is against the defending national champion, the Messiah College Falcons. Messiah has won the last three national championships and has won five titles since 2000. They enter the game with a 19-2-0 record, led by senior Patrick Lenehan, who has 12 scores on the year, and sophomore goalie Jared Clugston, who has allowed only five goals all season and has posted eight shutouts. The Falcons have outscored their opponents by almost three goals per game on average, and have allowed more than one goal in a game only once this season. One of their only losses this year was the first match of the season against Greensboro College, whom they played again last weekend in the second round of the tournament and thumped 4-0.
This is the first appearance for UR in the Sweet Sixteen and their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. Last season, the Yellowjackets beat Hamilton College in the opening round and then lost to Stevens Institute of Technology in round two. This year, the ‘Jackets give up an average of only 0.62 goals per game, are ranked 5th in Division III and deliver with a balanced attack on offense.
While freshman midfielder Steve Welles leads all ‘Jacket scorers with seven goals, eight players have at least three goals on the season for UR.
After replacing Corbalan five games into the season, Peacock has been a brick wall for the Yellowjackets. Playing over 1200 minutes as the UR netminder, Peacock has posted a minuscule 0.51 goals against average and six shutouts.
The team got a morale boost yesterday as seven members of the team were chosen as All-University Athletic Association selections.
Meister, Nick and senior Bobby Milenovici along with Peacock were named to the first team. Senior Jeremy Mann was given second team honors, and Hantes and senior Matt Sulkin received honorable mentions. The honors were voted on by league coaches.
The Yellowjackets will travel to Pennsylvania to take on the Falcons on Saturday at 7:30. With the wins over the weekend, UR improved to 15-2-2.
Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.