In any sport, teams go through long stretches without wins, then through sudden winning streaks, and then through bouts of mediocrity. With its continual ups and downs, the course of a season can often resemble a roller coaster. In the past couple of weeks, the Men's Soccer team has certainly illustrated this truism.
On October 25, in a UAA match against Brandeis, the men's team endured one of its biggest letdowns of the 2002 campaign. Sporting a 3-1 UAA record at the time, Chicago still looked like it could contend for the UAA title. The team was coming off a hard-fought 0-0 tie with Dominican University, and a win against Brandeis seemed feasible. Unfortunately, Brandeis came out firing and handed the Maroons a 4-1 defeat.
On October 27, the men's squad looked to redeem itself against the University of Rochester. As predicted by head coach John O'Connor, the match wound up being a battle. Once again, Chicago just didn't seem to have any luck: they came up just short, losing with a score of 2-1.
After the two losses, the Maroons renewed their confidence while playing against Washington University in their last UAA match of the season. Chicago outshot Washington and won the game 2-0, with impressive performances both offensively and defensively. Then, this past Tuesday, the Maroons reached an even greater high by thrashing Benedictine 9-2 in a regional match. The game was never close, with Chicago amassing an incredible 46 shots on goal, and generally outplaying Benedictine all over the field. After the victory against Benedictine, Chicago improved their overall record to 11-5-1 (4-3-0 in UAA play).
Despite the score, the game against Brandeis was actually quite closely contested. Chicago actually outshot Brandeis, 18 to 14, and the Chicago men launched numerous attacks on the Brandeis net. Brandeis benefited from an early penalty kick in the 22nd minute, and they scored three unanswered goals after that. Brandeis never thoroughly dominated the match, but they managed to convert their chances into goals. First-year midfielder Joe Frontczak notched the Maroons lone goal of the day, scoring in the 71st minute off of an assist by first-year forward Ryan Ehle.
Chicago's troubles continued in the Rochester match. Before the game, O'Connor anticipated that it would be difficult.
"Rochester is like us in a lot of ways: they're big, and the individual matchups will be important," O'Connor said. "They're very well-organized and very well-coached, so it should be tough."
O'Connor's predictions definitely held true. Rochester fouled the Maroons quite often15 times in the first half alonebut Chicago fought through the challenges and looked to create chances. However, the Maroons just couldn't find their scoring touch, as the Yellow Jackets scored the first two goals of the game. Finally, in the 80th minute, fourth-year midfielder Devin Thomas scored the only Chicago goal of the game off of an assist by first-year midfielder Giordano Palloni. With the loss, the Maroons fell to 3-3 in the UAA, and the defeat knocked them out of any serious contention for the UAA title.
After the bitter loss to a UAA rival, Chicago came out with much more purpose against Washington University. Wash U. traditionally boasts strong teams, but the Maroons handled their opponents quite well. This time, Chicago finally drew first blood, with fourth-year Soren Aandahl scoring the first goal of the game in the 20th minute. Frontczak assisted on the goal. Then, the Maroons doubled their scoring output with a goal by Ehle in the 27th minute. After a few shaky performances, the Maroons' defense once again returned to top form and shut out Wash U., who only managed 8 shots on the Chicago net. Third-year goalkeeper Micah Prochaska only needed to make three saves during the game. With this victory, the Maroons finished UAA play with a respectable 4-3-0 record.
The game against Benedictine proved to be a genuine blowout. The Maroons scored early and often, and they never looked back. During the second minute of the match, fourth-year co-captain Barret Van Sicklen converted a penalty kick for his eighth goal of the season. Van Sicklen then scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season in the 12th and 15th minutes of the game. Aandahl assisted on both goals. Frontczak scored in the 34th minute, and third-year Eugene Sung scored in the 36th minute. Second-year midfielder Michael Miller than scored his first goal of the season in the 41st minute to put the Maroons ahead, 6-0. Second-year Rush Atkinson closed out scoring in the first half with his second goal of the season during the 44th minute.
Though Chicago did ease up a bit during the second half, things weren't much better for Benedictine. Fourth-year midfielder John Gardner scored on a penalty kick, and fourth-year defender Ross Kessler also scored on a penalty kick. Benedictine did manage to score two goals during the match, but given the Maroons' huge lead, it hardly mattered. The game ended with Chicago taking home a 9-2 victory, one of their most lopsided wins in recent memory. Overall, the game featured strong performances by many fourth-years. Van Sicklen was as prolific as ever, notching his first hat trick of the season. Gardner also scored his first goal of the season, and Kessler knocked in the first goal of his career.
After their strong showing against Benedictine, the Maroons will close the season against UW-Oshkosh this Saturday at 2:00 pm.