It was only too fitting an end to the regular season for the UR men’s soccer team on Saturday, when it took on the eighth-ranked Case Western Reserve University Spartans. Last year, the Spartans came into Fauver Stadium and beat the ‘Jackets, 2-1, to claim the University Athletic Association title. This year, it was the ‘Jackets’ turn to travel to Cleveland and come away with a 3-0 victory over the home team, which crowned them UAA champions and earned them an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.

UR only needed five shots to notch its three goals. The first score came 10 minutes into the game, when senior defender Nick Mikolenko sent a cross in for senior midfielder Bobby Milenovici. Milenovici’s initial header was blocked by Spartan goalie Chad Skidmore, but he got a second chance when the rebound came back to him and was able to drive the ball past Skidmore to put the ‘Jackets up 1-0.

With the assist, Mikolenko moved into second on the team in assists with five. Milenovici’s score was his third of the season.

The ‘Jackets’ next strike came in the 44th minute, when freshman midfielder Steve Welles scored unassisted.

Welles dribbled up the right side of the field, beat a Spartan defender and took a shot that got past Skidmore, finding the lower left corner of the goal. The goal made Welles the leader in both goals scored and points for the season and gave UR a commanding 2-0 lead going into the half.

Case came out more aggressive after halftime, putting up 12 of its 15 shots in the second half and earning three corners. Sophomore goalie Michael Peacock was again outstanding in net for UR and the ‘Jackets were able to withstand the charge by the Spartans. During one play, after Peacock made several point-blank saves, the ball looked close to crossing the goal line until sophomore midfielder Scott Cady came over and cleared it away, preserving the shutout. Later in the half, Case was on the offensive again, getting behind the UR defense on the right wing and putting a shot on goal that Peacock saved, keeping the Spartans scoreless.

UR finally put the game out of reach for the home team with just over five minutes left to play. This time it was sophomore forward J.J. Dennstedt putting the ball past Skidmore, giving him his fourth goal of the season. Senior midfielder Patrick Ripp led a UR counterattack down the left side of the field and found Dennstedt at the top of the box. Dennstedt’s ensuing shot was well placed, hitting the top left corner of the goal and giving the game its final score of 3-0.

“We came out strong against Case and created several early opportunities,” head coach Chris Apple said. “Overall, the team looked sharp, connecting passes, winning challenges and playing tough defense.”

Peacock finished the game with seven saves for the ‘Jackets and recorded his fifth shutout of the season. Peacock was mentioned again on the UAA defensive honor roll for the week of Oct. 31 for his performances against Washington University in St. Louis and University of Chicago. The mention was Peacock’s third honor of the season. Skidmore had one stop in 90 minutes for the Spartans.

Case Western held an advantage in both shots and corner kicks, but it wasn’t enough to prevail against a UR team that hasn’t lost in 11 games. In those 11 games, the ‘Jackets have allowed only five goals and went from being unranked to a No. 5 ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.

UR needed the win in order to clinch its second UAA title in three years. The ‘Jackets beat out Emory University by one point, finishing 13-2-2 on the year and 6-0-1 in the UAA. Emory, who also played on Saturday, had beaten Carnegie Mellon University, forcing UR to have to win against Case in order to be UAA champions.

Welles finished the season leading the ‘Jackets in scoring with seven goals and in points with 15. Dennstedt led UR in assists, tallying six on the year. Junior forward Sean Hantes led the team in game-winning goals for the season with four.

The postseason will begin for the ‘Jackets on Friday at 5 p.m. when they take on Keuka College in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Fauver Stadium.

Hobart College will be playing SUNY Fredonia at the other first-round tournament game hosted by UR at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The two winners face off at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Yellowjackets played Hobart in Geneva early on in the season and suffered one of their only two losses there. UR now looks to reverse this outcome and make it through the first two rounds of the tournament.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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