For the first eleven games of the season, the men’s soccer team has depended on its skillful ground game to control the pace of play. On Saturday, New York University countered by stuffing five players in the midfield, posing one of the toughest defensive challenges of the year. It didn’t matter. UR still won 2-1 before a crowd of 500 at Fauver Stadium on Meliora Weekend.
In a tight, physical contest with few chances for either squad, UR capitalized on two set pieces at the feet of senior Nick Wheeler. The first came on a free kick that Wheeler sent to the head of star forward sophomore Nate Micklos in the 15th minute.
Micklos headed it home for his 9th goal of the season.
“They really stayed in on us and crowded the midfield, but to our guys credit we were really patient and converted when we needed to,” Head Coach Chris Apple said.
Shortly after halftime, Wheeler had another opportunity with a corner kick in the 49th minute.
This time he found senior Mike Springer who also converted with a header, for a 2-0 lead.
NYU sliced the lead in half when James Walkinshaw blasted in a free kick roughly ten minutes later. The Violets couldn’t get any closer, however-in large part to a fantastic play made by UR senior defender Nate Rimmke.
Rimmke headed a ball off the line after senior goalkeeper was beaten on the play.
“NYU played with a much more physical style than we have seen in the last few games,” Apple said. “But I was very pleased how we adjusted to the game, how we battled and scored off two set pieces.”
It was UR’s third consecutive victory, as the Yellowjackets improved to 8-3-1 and 2-0-0 in University Athletic Association league play. NYU fell to 5-2-2, 1-1 in the UAA.
UR had an 8-7 advantage in shots as Minehan needed only to make three saves. His counterpart Adam Colunga, in comparison, only stopped one shot for the entire game.
Apple’s team must get used to the physical play, as it only stands to get rougher as the UAA hits full stride. On Friday night, three-time UAA champion Carnegie Mellon University comes to Fauver Stadium boasting a record with only one blemish and a national ranking of 17. It is arguably the biggest game of the year for the Yellowjackets.
“They’ll try to attack us more than NYU – it’ll be a very physical game,” Apple estimates. “All conference games are the same. If we can get three points against Carnegie Mellon, I’ll take it.”
If that were not enough, the Yellowjackets will have to get back up physically and mentally for their Sunday contest against another national powerhouse, Emory University. Emory is ranked number two in the latest national poll, so UR will have their work cut out for them.
Rybaltowski can be reached at email@example.com.