Men’s soccer drops match in Oshkosh to end roller-coaster season

By Dimitri Islam

Sometimes, teams come into a game with low spirits and little energy. Sometimes, teams play listless games, lacking energy or vibrancy.

And sometimes, teams just feel sleepy.

Sleepiness certainly hounded the Maroons in their 3-1 loss to UW-Oshkosh on November 9. After waking up early Saturday morning to drive out to Oshkosh, Chicago just couldn’t shake off the cobwebs at the start of the game. The loss dropped the Maroons to a final 11-6-1 record for the season.

“It was a good game overall, but, in the first 20 to 25 minutes of the match, we were really just sleepy,” head coach John O’Connor said. “We just weren’t that awake, and Oshkosh pounced on that a little bit.”

Indeed, in the first 20 minutes of the match, Oshkosh capitalized on Chicago’s drowsiness by scoring two goals. The Maroons then countered when third-year Eugene Sung scored an unassisted goal in the 30th minute. Unfortunately, Oshkosh retaliated with a goal in the 42nd minute to take a 3-1 lead heading into the second half.

“After those first 20 minutes, we played pretty well, and we managed to get a goal back,” O’Connor said. “Oshkosh is a good team, though, and we had already dug ourselves a hole.”

In the second half, Chicago began creating chance after chance, but the Maroons could never find their final touch. To make matters worse for Chicago, second-leading scorer Brian Standerfer missed the match because of an injury. The first-year forward injured his ankle during practice earlier in the week, and the Maroons missed his presence up front against Oshkosh.

Fourth-year Barret Van Sicklen tried to carry the scoring load for the Maroons, but, hampered by injury and without much help, Van Sicklen couldn’t score the equalizer. In the second half, Van Sicklen actually had a one-on-one situation with the Oshkosh goalkeeper, but his shot missed the net. Along with Van Sicklen’s attempt, many other Maroons had their chances in the match.

“Rush Atkinson [second-year] actually had the ball about six yards from net, but he just couldn’t pull the trigger,” O’Connor said. “It was just one of those days for us.”

To further frustrate the Maroons, Oshkosh matches up quite well against Chicago. Accordingly, the Chicago men struggled after allowing three goals in the first half of play.

“Oshkosh can hold the ball well, they play it out wide, and they have a central midfield player who’s a DI transfer, so he helped them a lot,” O’Connor said.

The Maroons actually outshot their opponents 11 to 9, and they forced the Oshkosh goalkeeper to make seven saves. Nevertheless, Chicago couldn’t reclaim the goals they conceded in the first half, and the Maroons ended the 2002 campaign with a disappointing defeat.

Throughout the course of this season, Chicago often played without a fully healthy roster, and injuries did take their toll on the Maroons this season.

“Injuries did hurt us a little bit,” O’Connor said. “We are pretty deep – especially defensively – but offensively, it got a little tough. Sometimes, with Barret and Brian out, [first-year] Ryan Ehle got a lot of the scoring load just placed on him.”

Despite the loss, the Maroons still finished the season with 11 wins, one of the best win totals in Chicago men’s soccer history. Also, Chicago received a number of postseason awards. Van Sicklen and third-year defender Matt Wiechert made the All-UAA first team, and third-year defender Nathan Widell made the All-UAA second team.

As the season comes to a close, Chicago will also bid farewell to a host of talented fourth-year players. Van Sicklen and fourth-year Kevin Donovan led the way for the Maroons as co-captains. Ross Kessler provided invaluable help on the defensive end, and midfielder John Gardner played well throughout the season. Soren Aandahl offered a welcome addition to the Chicago attack, scoring a goal and racking up three assists for the season. Finally, Devin Thomas bolstered the Chicago defense.

While the squad will part ways with these talented fourth-years, O’Connor remains very optimistic about the future.

“We’re losing some very good players, but we’re still in a good position as far as turnover is concerned,” he said. “We’ve had a great first-year class, many of them played significantly, and our rising fourth-year class is also very talented.”

Also, although the loss to Oshkosh puts a bit of a damper on the season, O’Connor was still very pleased with the poise and resiliency his team demonstrated during the 2002 campaign.

“We’re very confident, we just won the third-most games in Chicago history, and we’re still hungry for more,” O’Connor said. “That tells you something about the nature of the team and what we want to achieve in the future.”