It didn’t take long for the UR men’s soccer team to assert itself as the better team Friday night when it took on Houghton College. The ‘Jackets scored twice in the first half, both by freshman midfielder Steve Welles, and added two more in the second half to win, 4-0. It’s been over three weeks since a ball has passed sophomore goalie Michael Peacock and the UR defense. The ‘Jackets now sit at 11-2-1 and are ranked sixth in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division III poll.

“The team played very well on Friday night despite some very sloppy conditions,” head coach Chris Apple said. “Our passing from the back and through the midfield was sharp, and we were very dangerous on the dribble in the attacking third.”

This style of play was rewarded just under 30 minutes into the game, when senior defender Nick Mikolenko sent a corner kick into the box. The ball bounced around, eventually landing at the foot of sophomore forward J.J. Dennstedt, who set Welles up for an easy goal.

With time running out before halftime, Dennstedt and Welles connected again to tally a second score for the ‘Jackets. This time, Dennstedt had the ball on a two-on-one breakaway. He was channeled to the left corner of the box, beat his defender and then found Welles, who was joining the play as a trailer. Welles’s subsequent one-timer found its way into the left-hand corner of the net, giving UR a 2-0 lead going into the half.

Less than five minutes into the second period, the ‘Jackets crushed any hope of a Houghton comeback when senior forward Jeremy Mann put the ball past Houghton goalie Eric Lefebvre to make it 3-0. The play started when junior forward Sean Hantes dribbled past his defender and passed the ball in for sophomore forward Scott Cady, who put the ball on net. The shot was blocked by Lefebvre, but the rebound went straight to Mann, who had no trouble netting the ball for the Yellowjackets.

The last score of the day was in the 75th minute, when the ball was cleared to midfield by the ‘Jackets’ defense. The clearance was misjudged by a Houghton defender, and sophomore defender Cliff White took advantage, breaking away and finishing the play with a nice shot to the left corner of the goal to give the game its final 4-0 score.

Peacock played for the first 65 minutes of the game and made two saves. Sophomore Brandon Campbell took over and didn’t face any shots.

“Our goalkeeping and team defending was solid throughout the match, and we limited Houghton to only a few looks on goal,” Apple said.

Welles is now tied with Hantes for the team lead in goals scored with five. Dennstedt has been superb coming off the bench in the last five games, scoring a goal and dishing out four assists. He was selected to the University Athletic Association Offensive Honor Roll this past week for the second time this year.

“The game on Friday was a good test for us as a team,” junior defender Jeremy Gaden said. “Houghton is a good team and it was important for us to play well in order to stay sharp when conference play resumes this weekend.”

Gaden is part of a ‘Jacket defense that has been impassable as of late. Peacock has been at his best, earning UAA Defensive Player of the Week last week for his performances shutout performances against top teams Emory University and Carnegie Mellon University. It was Peacock’s first time as Player of the Week, although he has been mentioned twice before on the UAA Honor Roll.

UR has allowed more than one goal just two times this year. Versus Houghton, the Yellowjackets held a 14-5 shot advantage and didn’t surrender a corner kick.

UR finishes its season with three UAA games. On Friday, they travel to St. Louis to take on Washington University in St. Louis, who is ranked 19th in Division III by the NSCAA. The ‘Jackets play University of Chicago on Sunday and then take on seventh-ranked Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland the following Saturday to close out their regular season.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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