With their backs against the conference wall, the Maroons (9–6–2, 2–4) fought their way out of obscurity in the UAA this weekend. After beginning conference play 0–4, Chicago rode the momentum of a two-game winning streak and pulled off huge victories against conference rivals Case Western (12–4, 3–2) and Rochester (9–4–2, 3–2–1) on Friday and Sunday.
The wins prove what Head Coach Scott Wiercinski has known all season long: that his team can compete with, and win against, anyone.
“The results are a little more indicative of our ability to play than those previous results where we didn’t play well and found a way to lose,” Wiercinski said.
Winning against two of the top teams in the UAA, the Maroons now have a four-game winning streak rolling as they head into the season finale against Wash U.
“We knew we were capable of much more than our results showed, and felt confident going into these games. Everyone was very proud to prove the quality we truly have. These wins were a big boost to us, against the second- and third-place teams in the league,” fourth-year midfielder Stanton Coville said.
The Maroons’ first challenge of the weekend came at Stagg Field on Friday against a Case Western squad that boasts one of the nation’s top scorers, Vinny Bell. Bell entered the match ranked sixth in the nation for all of DIII with 18 goals. Chicago contained Bell and pulled off the 1–0 upset.
“We really mixed up our game plan quite a bit to deal with Vinny Bell…. [Second-year defender] Terrell White was the man of the match,” Wiercinski said.
White thrived off the challenge of shutting down one of the nation’s best, and held the forward to just one shot on goal in 90 minutes of play.
“He was absolutely fantastic as a defender. He was able to make [Bell] a little bit more of an ordinary player than he typically is, and that really gave us an opportunity to win,” Wiercinski said.
The defensive play didn’t stop at White, however. Behind their stronghold the Maroons outshot Case 14–8 with first-year goalkeeper Elek Lane recording three saves to post his sixth shutout of the year, and his third straight.
“The rest of the team really did a fantastic job of helping [White] in important moments,” Wiercinski added.
Coville provided Chicago’s lone score, a goal off the head of a player who is proving to be one of Chicago’s all-time great goal scorers. Off a set piece in the 18th minute, first-year midfielder Michael Choquette placed a ball that Coville was able to drive into the net.
“It was one of our corner kick set pieces, playing short to draw the defense out a bit, and it worked perfectly. I was able to drift to the back post while my defender was ball watching, and Choquette played a great ball in; I didn’t have too much left to do,” Coville said.
The goal is Coville’s ninth of the season and the 29th of his career. Against Wash U he will have the chance to become only the third player in school history to score 30 times over a career.
Despite Chicago’s momentum heading into their second home game of the weekend, though, the Maroons struggled out of the gate on Sunday.
“The Rochester game was definitely a game of two halves,” Coville said.
The Maroons got behind early after Rochester scored on two consecutive corner kicks in the 37th and 38th minutes. Due to several mishaps, the Maroons found themselves in territory they thought they had moved past.
“I felt like the first half we came out and really just played a pretty unemotional and average half. [Rochester] played with a lot more energy and as a result of that, they won a lot of loose balls and converted some chances, which put us in a big deficit at halftime, but I was really proud of the way the team played in the second half,” Wiercinski said.
When the second half kicked off, it was a different ball game and a different team. In the 58th minute Choquette fed the ball to first-year forward Nic Lopez, for the Maroons’ first goal of the afternoon, giving Chicago a breath of life.
As time began dwindling, however, it appeared as though the Maroons’ streak had met its end. That was, until the very last minute.
With less than a minute left in the ball game, Choquette followed up his assist with a corner that sailed into the top of the net just as time was expiring. The score set up overtime and a second chance.
“In the second half we came out with a lot of energy and played one of our best halves of soccer. We really deserved our goals and had a lot of momentum going into the overtime; it was really our game at that point,” Coville said.
The Maroons came out firing in the extra period, scoring in the very first minute of overtime. After Rochester was whistled for being offsides, Chicago took a free kick and came through in the clutch with a pass from Coville to first-year forward Kyle Kurfirst, who didn’t let the game-winner slip away.
“It was a great third goal, created by a lot of good, aggressive play by several players and a great assist from [Coville] and goal from [Kurfirst],” Wiercinski said.
The Maroons outshot Rochester 11–8 in the contest.
“The team is feeling confident coming off of this weekend and there is a lot of momentum with that streak. We fully expect to carry this quality play and energy into Wash U. It is a game with big implications for us as well as them, and with it being at home on Senior Day, it doesn’t get much bigger,” Coville said.
The Maroons face Wash U at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Stagg Field for their season finale.