The Maroons look to beat Wash U to clinch the program’s first UAA champion title and NCAA tournament bid in five years.
Chicago (10–5–2, 4–0–2 UAA) has a lot at stake as it enters its last conference and regular season game against chief rival Wash U (8–6–2, 1–4–1) this Saturday. With a win against the Bears, Chicago is guaranteed both the UAA title and a tournament bid, something no Maroon player on the current roster has ever accomplished.
“This is now the most important game any of us has ever played…. Wash U is the next opportunity for us to show what kind of a team we can be. The conference title is at stake,” said fourth-year defender Kevin Matheny.
“I would like nothing more than to top conference undefeated and end the regular season with a win…. The UAA title and playoffs are at stake,” added first-year defender Andrew Mines.
This season has had some rough times, but Chicago has worked through them to build a successful and competitive program, and things are finally coming together for them with this last game against the Bears.
“We’ve been through a lot as a team and as a senior class, but we have an opportunity on Saturday to erase all those memories by becoming UAA champions and starting another journey to the NCAA tournament,” said fourth-year midfielder Nick Codispoti.
“This has been a season-long effort to revolutionize the program,” Mines said.
Wash U may be in last place in the conference, but the Maroons do not see this game as different from any other UAA conference game.
“Wash U currently holds last place, but by no means will this be an ‘easy game.’ Every conference game is extremely competitive, and as the bottom team they have nothing to lose,” Mines said.
“Whether you’re playing the top of the conference or the bottom, every UAA game is a battle from start to finish…. No matter what the situation in the UAA standings may be, we are going to St. Louis to win,” said fourth-year forward and team captain Kyle Kurfirst.
In addition, Chicago has not forgotten its loss to the Bears last season that cost the team a possible NCAA tournament bid.
“Last year’s players have some resentment for losing to Wash U at the end of the 2013 fall season, which is sure to fuel our motivation,” Mines said.
Despite everything at stake, the Maroons look to stick with what has helped them produce their big wins so far this season: remaining composed, staying focused, and working hard.
“We’re all focused on earning a victory on Saturday. When we step out to practice, everyone has been locked in and has prepared for the task in front of us,” Codispoti said.
“It comes down to the guys in our locker room. Each guy needs to be locked in and focused on what he has to do for us to get a win,” Kurfirst said.
The Maroons also know what needs to be done tactically in order to come out successful this weekend.
“We need to continue to play stingy, organized defense, and on attack we need to make sure to move the ball, play our style of soccer, and attack with purpose and creativity,” Matheny said.
“We need to compete on 50/50 balls in the air. If we win the battle in the trenches, we’ll be able to control possession and execute our game plan,” Mines said.
Second-year defender DJ Weis summed it up simply: “Prepare hard, play hard, and win.”
The Maroons’ last regular season game against the Bears takes place tomorrow at 11 a.m. in St. Louis.