In a 90-minute battle of sporting wills, the men's soccer team edged out visiting Illinois Wesleyan (IWU) 2-1 Tuesday afternoon. A full-extension diving save in the second half wasn't enough to earn second-year goalkeeper Keith Crum his 11th shutout of the season, but the 10th-ranked Maroons were able to take advantage of an early goal by third-year forward Brian Standerfer and a late own goal tallied by a Wesleyan defender to come away with the win.
With the win, Chicago (11-1-3, 2-0-2) finished the regular season undefeated at Stagg Field with an impressive 8-0-2 home record.
Chicago, who has struggled to capitalize on offensive chances as of late, drew first blood with a ninth-minute goal. Standerfer scored his fourth goal of the season on assists from fourth-year midfielder Ben Preyss and third-year midfielder Giordano Palloni. The early shot left little doubt that the Maroon's aggressive attack would be a constant threat.
Illinois Wesleyan opened the second half with offensive pressure of their own and a quick goal in the 60th minute. Throughout the course of the game, Wesleyan relied on a counter-attack to create fast-break scoring opportunities. The Wesleyan goalkeeper got good distance on all of his goal kicks, and his long drive in the 60th minute caught the Chicago defense off guard and out of position. Titans star forward, fourth-year Scott Hernandez, put the shot past the outstretched arms of Chicago's Crum to even the score at one.
While Hernandez's equalizer kept IWU in the game, the Titans defense just as quickly took itself out of it with an own goal at 71:30. On the series leading up to the goal, the Maroons earned a corner kick as a result of renewed offensive pressure. The subsequent corner was sent around the box before a Chicago header sent the ball ricocheting off the top crossbar. Wesleyan's defense was unable to clear the high rebound, and a Wesleyan defender ultimately headed the ball into the left corner of his own net.
After the own goal, Wesleyan broke through the Chicago defense one final time. Crum came up big again with a diving save to his left, using his hands to prevent the equalizer. After that sequence Chicago regained its defensive dominanceonly allowing two IWU shots on goal all gameand held on for the remainder of regulation.
With the win, Chicago remains in the top tier of NCAA Division III soccer teams. For two weeks running now, the Maroon men have held the 10th ranking in the coaches' poll. The men also maintained their second-place central division ranking, behind only Trinity University of Texas (15-0-0).
This weekend the Maroons travel out of state to play conference rivals Case and Rochester on Friday and Sunday, respectively. With only three regular season conference games remaining, a strong showing this weekend would likely propel the team to an NCAA Division-III tournament berth.