It’s a new week but the same story for men’s soccer as a goal in the 89th minute doomed the Maroons to a 1-0 defeat at sixth-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater last Friday, marking the fourth consecutive road game in which the Maroons have lost at the last minute to ranked opponents.
“I thought overall we played very well, especially on defense,” coach Scott Wiercinski said. “We talked about keeping the ball away from their danger players and we did that perfectly. They saw a lot of the ball in their own half and midfield, but we gave them very little room to work in attack.”
Though third-year Chris Giusto made four saves to the Warhawks’ one, the Maroons (7-6-1) had the better of the game’s chances as fourth-year Alex Clifford blasted two of the team’s six shots off the woodwork.
“When we won the ball, we countered them quickly and created a lot of chances,” added Wiercinski. “Not necessarily chances that show up in the box score, but we had a lot of crosses that were played a little too deep or through balls that didn’t quite find their man, but represented good opportunities.”
The defense limited the Warhawks (11-1-2) to a season-low five shots, but despite impressing at both ends of the field, a clinical finish from Sean Gilbert settled the game.
“The goal was really weird,” Wiercinski said. “It came a few minutes after a sequence where we had strung together 10 or 11 passes and then hit the post. From the goal kick they were able to play it up to a forward, whose shot was deflected straight to someone who was waiting for it and ready to put it right in the corner. Sometimes you have to make your own luck, but it was really unfortunate coming after we had put together such a good move.”
The Maroons will round out the regular-season with three conference games.
They start with their first home game in four weeks this Friday against New York University (8-2-3, 2-0-2), who come in unranked despite leading the UAA. Although finding themselves at the opposite end of the conference table, on paper this is likely the Maroons’ easiest game in a month and a win could catapult them from seventh to third in the UAA.
A home win against a shaky Brandeis team the following week could make the regular-season finale at Washington University a winner-takes-all battle for the conference championship and the NCAA Tournament spot that comes with it.
As Wiercinski pointed out, “If you don’t get the UAA’s automatic bid, it’s a completely at-large process [for making the NCCA Tournament]. They use all kinds of factors to compare teams, so I don’t know exactly how we would stack up. That means that from our perspective, a win against NYU is very important.”