On Friday, Chicago traveled to New York to take on the Rochester Yellowjackets. After 90 minutes of play, the score stood at 0–0. But after just four minutes of overtime, senior midfielder Nic Lopez scored on a rebounded shot, giving Chicago the 1–0 victory.
Then on Sunday, the Maroons traveled to Cleveland, OH to take on Case Western Reserve University. The match ended in a 0–0 deadlock, as neither team could find the back of the net in 110 minutes of play.
The final line, however, is deceptive. The match was far from a defensive one. Each team kept the other’s defense on edge, launching a barrage of shots. The Maroons fired 22, 13 of which were on goal; the Spartans, meanwhile, tried their luck 14 times with seven of those chances on target.
Indeed, it was an incredible display by both keepers. Chicago’s first-year goalkeeper Hill Bonin set the tone early; in the 12th minute, he knocked away a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net. Bonin, who hasn’t let a ball past him in his last 445 minutes of game time, would finish with seven saves. The Spartans’ Calvin Boyle, meanwhile, denied 13 of Chicago’s shots. He, too, hasn’t conceded a goal in his last 311 minutes of play.
The Maroons’ relentless attack almost netted success deep into the match, when second-year forward Brenton Desai’s strike smashed into the crossbar in the 99th minute.
Victory, however, wasn’t in the cards for either team. The Maroons’ record now stands at 8–4–2 (2–0–2 UAA), putting them atop the conference standings. The Spartans, meanwhile, are 8–4–3 overall and 2–1–1 in conference play. In the conference standings, they stand two spots below the Maroons, in third place.
Although victory was elusive, the South Siders have now won or tied each of their past five matches, shutting out their opponents in each case. Their defensive success comes after a shift in tactics.
“We are going into every conference game with a very specific game plan based off of our knowledge of the way the opponent plays,” said fourth-year Kevin Matheny. “A lot of this is coach’s scouting. We have a lot of confidence in each other, and we’re very ‘bought in’ to what coach is trying to do with our style of play and game plan for each match. Our goalie, Hill Bonin, has played really well and come up with some truly amazing saves in high pressure.”
Their recent success comes at an especially important stretch of the season; Chicago has four more matches before the start of the NCAA tournament. With each passing match, the Maroons have become more and more confident. Their conference success may be a harbinger of great things to come.
“It’s conference—this is where our season is made,” said Bonin. “We have bred an atmosphere of belief and competitiveness and it’s showing. We need to continue to trust one another and stay hungry for the rest of the season, staying composed and taking it one game at a time. If we keep this momentum going, there’s nothing this group can’t do.”
The Maroons’ next match will be at UW–Whitewater at 3 p.m. on Saturday, their final nonconference game for the rest of the regular season.