After 90 minutes of intense battle, the UR men’s soccer team’s season came to a close on Sunday after it fell to the Messiah College Falcons, 0-1, in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The ‘Jackets, despite holding a 4-1 corner kick advantage and logging a number of scoring opportunities, were unable to break through a staunch Messiah defense that entered the match allowing under 0.45 goals per game.

‘[Messiah] plays extremely quickly when they have the ball, and, when they don’t have the ball, their defensive pressure is smothering,” head coach Chris Apple said of his second-round opponent.

The ‘Jackets were looking for revenge after getting blown out, 0-6, by the Falcons in a Sweet 16 matchup last year but were unable to recover on Sunday after falling into a 0-1 hole in the fourth minute of play. The Falcons’ early goal was set up by midfielder Geoff Pezon, who chipped the ball ahead to teammate Kent Ramirez on the left side of the box. Ramirez made a move to get past junior goalie Michael Peacock and finished on the play by passing the ball into the back of the net.

Unlike last year, UR still managed to pressure the Falcon defense after falling behind. The ‘Jackets logged a number of scoring chances before halftime, most notably in the 24th minute of play, when freshman midfielder Jake Cargill crossed the ball into the Messiah box from the left wing, and junior forward Scott Cady headed the pass toward the top left corner of the goal.

Falcon goalie Jared Clugston made a terrific save to punch the ball over the net and keep the ‘Jackets off the scoreboard.

‘I think I might have gotten too excited,” Cady said. ‘I didn’t put enough power on it to get it past [Clugston].”

UR’s next opportunity came with 14 minutes to play in the half, when it was awarded a free kick at the top of the box. Junior defender Phil Proud took the kick and almost managed to nestle the ball past Messiah’s wall and Clugston, but the shot sailed just high of the goal.

Messiah also logged a couple scoring opportunities before halftime, but Peacock and UR’s defense proved to be up to the challenge.

The ‘Jackets got strong performances out of freshman midfielder Scott Zorn and Cargill. Both saw extended playing time in both Sunday’s game against Messiah and Saturday’s first-round game against Castleton State College after two key starters junior forward J.J. Dennstedt and junior midfielder Timmer McCarthy were sidelined with injuries. Dennstedt was the team’s leading scorer this season but tore his ACL in UR’s final regular season game on Nov. 8.

Zorn had a scoring chance early in the second half, when sophomore midfielder Steve Welles dropped a pass to him at the top of the box. Zorn directed a hard-driven ball toward goal, but a Messiah defender stepped in front of the shot in the last second.

The second half as a whole was a back-and-forth battle between the ‘Jackets and the Falcons, who entered the game ranked No. 10 and No. 8, respectively, in the most recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. UR pressed particularly hard in the last 10 minutes, but Messiah held on to advance into the round of 16.

The ‘Jackets came into the game on Sunday having beaten the Spartans of Castleton State, 2-0, the day before. Senior midfielder Sean Hantes gave the Yellowjackets the early lead in the game against the Spartans, and Welles added an insurance goal midway through the second half, heading home Proud’s corner kick to give UR a 2-0 lead.

Seven ‘Jackets Peacock, Dennstedt, senior midfielder Dominic Pellingra, Hantes, Welles, senior defender Jeremy Gaden and Cady received University Athletic Association All-Conference honors this past week.

Peacock and Dennstedt both earned First Team All-UAA recognition. Dennstedt had 11 goals this year, and Peacock posted seven shutouts.

UR finished its season with a 14-3-2 overall record and 6-1 record in the UAA, good enough for a share of the conference title. The Yellowjackets made it to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in Apple’s tenure which was quite a feat, considering the team lost a number of starters throughout the season due to injury and relied on newcomers to fill some key positions on the field.

‘When you consider the graduation last spring of nine seniors and the number of players who were banged up or completely out with injury, what this group accomplished this fall is nothing short of amazing,” Apple said. ‘I could not be more proud of their belief in each other, their determination and their competitive spirit.”

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.



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