The question was simple for the UR men’s soccer team on Saturday midway through the first period of its game against the Statesmen of Hobart College who was going to step up? And while the ‘Jackets weren’t lacking in skill against the Statesmen who ranked 6th in the most recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll they never managed to find the necessary leadership to harness their ability and inevitably fell to Hobart, 3-0.
‘The difference, as painful as it is to admit, was that Hobart wanted the game more than we did,” head coach Chris Apple said.
It was UR’s first loss of the season and the first time the ‘Jackets have given up more than two goals in a regular-season game since 2005.
The match was physical from the beginning, with each team hoping to gain an advantage through the use of their bodies and by taking shots at the opposing team. UR dominated offensively for much of the game, particularly in the first half, spreading the field and earning a number of chances off of runs up the sidelines.
Twenty minutes into the game, sophomore defender Misha Carrel-Thomas pushed a ball toward the upper left corner of the goal from 40 yards out, and Hobart goalie Pete Van Dellon barely managed to tip it over the crossbar at the last second.
In the 27th minute, Hobart counterattacked, earning a throw-in in ‘Jacket territory on the right side of the pitch. Hobart defender Matt Geswell’s throw bounced in toward the UR goal, where junior goalie Michael Peacock and Carrel-Thomas were both positioned to defend what appeared to be an easy ball to pick up. But a miscommunication between the two UR players allowed for the ball to skid into the far corner of the goal, giving Hobart the 1-0 edge.
There were a couple instances in the remaining minutes of the first half where it looked like the Yellowjackets would even up the score. With just over 10 minutes left in the period, UR earned a direct kick right outside Hobart’s box. Junior defender Phil Proud took the shot, but Van Dellon was again able to deflect the ball over the crossbar at the last second. Less than two minutes later, freshman midfielder Josh Richards passed back to the top of the box to freshman defender Scott Zorn, whose ensuing shot went just wide.
But despite numerous opportunities, the ‘Jackets lacked the poise and control that was present in their winning efforts this season. The miscommunication between veteran players resulted in Apple subbing his entire midfield and offensive starting lineups out of the game for the remainder of the half by the 30th minute of play. While the second string generated offensive pressure, it lacked structure.
In the second half, UR again came out with energy on offense. Five minutes into the period, Van Dellon came up big on junior forward J.J. Dennstedt’s point blank shot from 12 yards out.
But Hobart again capitalized on a throw-in a minute later, notching its second goal after the ball was thrown into UR’s box and batted around in a scuffle.
The ‘Jackets couldn’t clear, and Hobart senior midfielder Philipp Schoeniger was able to drive the ball past Peacock to give the Statesmen a 2-0 lead.
UR applied pressure on Hobart but again came up empty. Sophomore midfielder Jimmy Parrinello took a shot from just inside the 18-yard line that clanged off the post, and Statesmen defenders broke up a number of other ‘Jacket scoring chances.
Hobart ended any hope of a UR comeback with just under 14 minutes left to play when Statesman freshman defender Nate Bechtold took advantage of a throw-in deep in ‘Jacket territory and put the ball past Peacock into the lower left corner of the net.
‘On the one hand, Hobart gets credit for being opportunistic,” Apple said. ‘On the other hand, we need to be tougher in our penalty box and win critical challenges in front of our goal.”
UR finished the game with a 6-0 edge in corner kicks and an 11-3 shot advantage. However, only three of the 11 attempts were on goal and many were from outside the box or blocked almost right after the point of contact or through the virtues of individual efforts instead of teamwork. On the defensive side of the ball, the ‘Jackets at times looked disjointed and stumbled due to a lack of communication.
When asked what UR would be concentrating on in practice during the upcoming week, Apple replied with a single word competitiveness.
On Wednesday, the ‘Jackets rebounded to beat the Houghton College Highlanders, 2-1, in a heated contest in Fauver Stadium. Houghton, which entered the game with a 4-3 record, was unable to keep its cool throughout the game, committing 23 fouls and accruing four yellow cards.
The match came down to a play in the 71st minute of the game. With the score tied 1-1, Houghton took down senior midfielder Sean Hantes in its own box, resulting in a penalty kick. Proud took the kick and calmly slid it past Houghton goalie Erik Lefebrve.
The ‘Jackets came out strong in the first half, notching 13 shots and three corner kicks. With under a minute left in the half, UR’s persistence paid off. Dennstedt carried the ball up the left side of the pitch and crossed it into the path of sophomore midfielder Steve Welles, who managed to put the ball past Lefebrve to give the Yellowjackets the 1-0 lead going into the half.
The goal was Welles’s second of the season, moving him into third on the team in goals scored.
Peacock started the game in goal, but was taken out in the second half and replaced by junior netminder Brandon Campbell.
Hougton came out more physical and offensively minded in the second half. Midway through the half, the Highlanders finally managed to break through the ‘Jacket defense, which appeared to have recovered after letting in three goals a couple days earlier.
Houghton’s Dan Brubaker gobbled up the rebound of teammate Steve Grudda’s hard-driven shot and put the ball past Campbell.
Campbell was solid for most of the half, however, and finished the game with five saves. In the waning moments of the game, he preserved the win with a save he made on Brubaker from eight yards out.
Hantes generated a number of opportunities offensively for UR, but was denied of a goal once by the post and once by a strong save from Lefebrve.
Last year against the Highlanders, Welles scored two goals and junior forward Cliff White notched one score to propel UR to a 4-0 victory over Houghton.
UR takes on its crosstown rival, the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, at 4 p.m. this Tuesday. Last year, UR beat RIT when Proud headed the ball past the Tiger goalie to give the ‘Jackets a 3-2 advantage with seven seconds remaining in the game.
With the win, UR moves to 5-1-2.
Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.