Offense may sell tickets, but the UR men’s soccer team proved Sunday against Salisbury College that it’s defense that wins games. The Yellowjackets, who have allowed only two goals in their past five games, were solid and unyielding, holding the Seagulls to seven shots and three corner kicks en route to a 1-0 victory.

Junior forward Sean Hantes had the lone goal for the ‘Jackets. Eighteen minutes in, senior defender Nick Mikolenko played a ball past Salisbury defenders that Hantes caught up with and drilled past Salisbury’s sophomore goalie Greg Wellinghoff. It was the fourth goal of the season for Hantes, who leads the team in both goals scored and points.

UR rang in many more scoring opportunities before halftime, including a shot off the post by Hantes and a Mikolenko corner that was headed off the goal line by a Salisbury defender.

In the second half, a sprawling Wellinghoff saved a header from ‘Jackets’ senior midfielder Bobby Milenovici, only to see the rebound collected by Hantes, whose ensuing shot was blocked. Hantes led the offensive surge, totaling four shots, while Milenovici and Mikolenko tallied three apiece. UR finished the game with 17 shots and eight corners. In the end, however, it wasn’t the ‘Jackets’ offense that took over the game. Strong play by Mikolenko on the left wing, junior defender Jeremy Gaden and senior sweeper Eric Meister allowed UR to come away with the victory. Sophomore goalie Michael Peacock was outstanding in net. Taking over for senior Paco Corbalan, who recently shattered his cheekbone, Peacock posted his first complete shutout of the season. UR maintained aggressiveness and poise throughout the entire 90 minutes, matching the physicality of the Seagulls and keeping their composure in a game that tallied 35 fouls.

The Salisbury defense was tough in its own right. Allowing only one goal despite 17 Yellowjacket shots, Wellinghoff and the ‘Gull defenders kept Salisbury alive. Wellinghoff had eight saves for the game, while the Seagull defense was able to clear the eight UR corner kicks and block many of UR’s second chance opportunities.

Head coach Chris Apple was pleased with the ‘Jackets’ performance against a team of Salisbury’s caliber.

“I thought the game was a tale of two halves,” Apple said. “The first half we controlled most of the possession and chances and we played attractive attacking-style soccer. The second half was much more of a physical battle and our team was up to the task.”

In the second half, Salisbury turned up the offense, but the Yellowjacket defense was equal to the challenge. Peacock was dominant in the box, getting his hands on almost every cross and blocking a number of Seagull scoring chances. In the final minutes of the game, Peacock was especially in his element, making two diving deflections and saving shots from Salisbury sophomore midfielder Alex Hargrove and senior midfielder Zach Grubb. The amount of physical contact in the game didn’t faze the Yellowjackets, who were still able to come up with the ball and make key clears. Matching Salisbury’s aggressiveness and toughness, the ‘Jackets stayed focused and controlled much of the possession leading up to final minutes of the game.

UR’s resilience Sunday was against a Seagull team that is known for being perennially strong. Salisbury has had consecutive winning seasons for over two decades, as well as six NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the National semifinals in 2004. None of this rattled the ‘Jackets, though, who were able to avenge a 1-0 loss from last season and give themselves a little more momentum heading into University Athletic Association competition this weekend, where they will take on the 2-2-2 Judges of Brandeis University.

UR has been especially sharp of late – their only defeat in the past five games was a 1-0 loss to then sixth-ranked Hobart College. The ‘Jackets seem to have found a defensive rhythm, anchored by strong upperclassmen leadership and solid goaltending.

The month of October, however, will be the real test for the 3-2-1 Yellowjackets, who play four different ranked UAA rivals including 13th-ranked New York University and 24th-ranked Emory University at home on the sixth and the 14th of October, and then 19th-ranked Washington University in St. Louis in St. Louis on the 28th and fifth-ranked Case Western University on Nov. 3.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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