After losing two consecutive conference games two weeks ago, the Maroons rebounded this past week winning two out of three non-league contests.
Although Chicago will not make the postseason this year, the squad was able to clamp down defensively and secure a couple of hard-fought victories. The team's overall record is now 8-5-1 with a 1-3 record within the University Athletic Association (UAA).
On October 17, the U of C played a critical UAA match against Brandeis. After scoring two goals in the first half, the Maroons gave up three in the second frame with the last two coming in the final three minutes of the game.
"Everyone was disappointed [after the Brandeis game]," said head coach John O'Connor. "This carried over mentally into the game versus NYU."
In that contest two days later, the Maroons were forced to battle the elements and field conditions in addition to their human opponents. In a game played on rain-soaked and worn-down Astroturf, Chicago had the first significant chance of the match. Receiving a cross from fourth-year Eugene Sung, second-year Giordano Palloni crushed a header that hit the crossbar. Capitalizing on Chicago's squandered opportunity, NYU scored the first goal of the match 13 minutes into the first half. Facing an early deficit and ugly conditions, Chicago's offense failed to find its rhythm and the Maroons absorbed a 2-0 league loss.
With their playoff hopes dashed away, the Maroons faced a true test of character in three non-league games this past week. Although devastated, the Chicago squad also felt a renewed sense of purpose.
"In losing two away conference games in a row, the general attitude of the team shifted from [winning the conference] to playing because we love to play," said fourth-year and captain Matt Wiechert. "This created a more jovial attitude, leaving us to play for fun, which seems to be working."
In last Wednesday's game against Illinois Wesleyan the Maroons played more consistently on both offense and defense. The team put 12 shots on goal, while Wesleyan managed only 5. Unfortunately none of these chances were converted into goals, and the second half ended with still no score. In the extra frame, the Maroons once again proved that they are a team that can focus when a game is on the line. In the 12th minute, fourth-year Nathan Widell played a ball to fourth-year Theo Arvanites who promptly ended the game with a blast from two yards out. Chicago is now 2-0-1 in overtime games.
Friday the Maroons played at home for the first time since October 8. The friendly confines of Stagg Field were a welcome sight as the U of C was able to limit Centre College's chances and control the ball effectively. Just before the half ended, the Maroons put a ball on goal that forced a Centre defender to use his hands. Fortunately, the officials did not turn a blind eye and sent him off with a red card. The Maroons were then awarded a penalty shot, which Wiechert sent to the back of the net.
A pretty combination in the second half yielded Chicago's second goal of the game. Palloni threw a ball into the Centre box (legally using his hands in this case) which second-year defender Peter Schlaefer headed on to fourth-year midfielder Eugene Sung. Sung deftly flicked this one past the Centre keeper, finishing off the head-to-head combination in fine form. A 2-0 victory was Chicago's reward.
This past Sunday the Maroons were unable to keep up the momentum as they yielded a 1-0 loss to Dominican. Chicago will attempt to salvage their UAA record this coming weekend as they face Case Western Reserve on Friday and University of Rochester on Sunday. Both games are home and start at 11 a.m.