The UR men’s soccer team put up two goals in the first 25 minutes of play and hung on in the second half against Case Western Reserve University to beat out the Spartans, 3-2, at Saturday’s senior night game. With the win, the ‘Jackets finish their regular season at 13-2-2 and earn a share of the University Athletic Association title with a 6-1 conference record. UR will host Castleton State College in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

‘We knew going into the game that we had a chance at winning the UAA championship and solidifying our spot in the NCAA tournament,” senior defender Jeremy Gaden said. ‘But we went into this game, just like every other game, with a business-like attitude.”

The match was a tale of two very physical halves. Over 20 fouls were committed between the two teams, and the match had all the intensity of a heated rivalry game.

UR was in command in the first, controlling the tempo and holding a 6-4 shot advantage. After halftime, Case held the 6-4 shot advantage and forced UR’s defense to tighten up.

‘We stressed taking advantage of Case’s physical play by not only matching their physicality, but also by capitalizing on restarts in their end,” Gaden said. ‘That’s how we scored our first goal of the game.”

That score came in the sixth minute off of UR senior midfielder Dominic Pellingra’s corner kick. Senior midfielder Sean Hantes headed the cross toward Spartan goalie Konrad Karasek, who stopped the ball but couldn’t hold onto it, allowing sophomore defender Misha Carrell-Thomas to direct the ball into the back of the Spartan net.

Fifteen minutes later, junior forward J.J. Dennstedt scored his 11th goal of the season to put the Yellowjackets up by two. Dennstedt received a pass from freshman midfielder Jake Cargill on the left side of the box, turned around and rocketed the ball past Karasek into the top right corner of the goal.

‘[Dennstedt] has been great for us all year,” head coach Chris Apple said. ‘He has really worked on refining his finishing ability, and the effort he brings to every game is incredible.”

The Spartans closed the gap to one with six minutes left in the first half, when Case was awarded a free kick right outside of UR’s box. Before the Yellowjackets’ wall or junior goalie Michael Peacock were ready, forward R.J. French shot the ball past a diving Peacock into the lower left corner of the goal.

The Yellowjackets regained a two-goal lead 20 minutes into the second half when freshman forward Josh Richards scored his second breakaway goal of the season off of a pass from junior forward Scott Cady.

Case attempted a comeback, but UR proved tough enough to withstand the Spartans’ offensive surge.

Junior defender Phil Proud broke up a pass in the 73rd minute during a dangerous Case scoring chance where the Spartans had numbers up on the UR defense. Three minutes later, Peacock tipped a long throw-in away from goal, and the ‘Jackets cleared the ball out of the box.

‘We played quality team defense throughout the game, especially late in the game when Case was really pressuring hard in our end,” Gaden said. ‘Everyone was working hard to get behind the ball and to deny Case a chance at goal.”

Gaden, who has anchored the ‘Jackets’ backfield in every game this season, was one of three seniors playing in his final regular-season game. Pellingra and Hantes complete the trio. Both have started every game this season. Pellingra has provided UR with solid defense and strength in the middle of the field, and Hantes is second on the team with four goals this season.

Knowing that it could have been their last game ever in Fauver Stadium only added to the intensity the three brought going into the match.

‘Going into the game, my mindset was the same, only with greater meaning,” Pellingra said. ‘I knew it could be the last time that I’d ever play a regular-season game in Fauver, so there was that added confidence that I wasn’t going to let our team lose.”

On Saturday, the ‘Jackets will again have their hands full. Castleton State is 11-8-1 overall and, while UR has been on a solid winning streak over the past couple of weeks, Apple’s team is anything but complacent.

‘We continue to work on speed of play, finishing, team defense and restarts,” Apple said. ‘We are good in all these areas, but there is always room for improvement.”

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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