November 3, 2011

Up-and-down season comes to a close against Bears

As their season comes to a close, the men’s soccer team will be vying for one last chance at the playoffs.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Maroons (9–6–2, 2–4–0). The team got off to a good start before a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season and a succession of injuries, but has turned it around in recent weeks with wins against conference opponents Case Western and Rochester.

The team can increase their UAA winning streak to three and finish the season with a bang with a win against archrival Wash U (13–3–1, 4–2–0) this Saturday. Wash U is ranked 16th in the country.

“I feel really positive about facing Wash U on Saturday,” said fourth-year back Rashad Masri. “We are feeling really confident going into the game due to our current winning streak, and we know that we can play with anyone if we play up to our potential and avoid mistakes.”

Already heated rivals, Wash U and Chicago have a history of close matchups, characterized by both teams’ grinding, possession-oriented style of play. Since Wiercinski began coaching at Chicago six years ago, each game between the teams has been decided by a goal or less.

“We’re not quite as fortunate in our league games as Wash U, but we’re motivated and determined,” said Wiercinski.

The Maroons last won the conference in 2009, earning an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament in the process. Chicago hasn’t returned to the NCAA tournament since. “Younger members should take advantage of every opportunity and be grateful for every victory,” Masri said.

If the Maroons win Saturday’s match, then they will be eligible for an at-large bid for playoffs. If they lose, their season will be over.

Wiercinski praised his entire team for persevering through the team’s losing streak, and singled out a few players he thought had made a significant impact on the season.

“We had really important contributions from everybody. Alec Lane was a consistently good goalkeeper, which is a pleasant surprise for a first-year player. [Fourth-year] Stanton Coville was also a key player, and [second-year] Alexis Onfroy was an excellent addition to the team from last year,” said Wiercinski. “Everybody has had a pretty good season, and we have a good combination of young players with more experienced ones.”

“I loved the group of guys we had, and we had a very strong team chemistry throughout the season. The young guys came in and were responsive to the older guys and the coaches for what was expected of them, and the veterans set a good example for all of them,” Masri said. “The wins against Rochester, Case Western, and Wisconsin Whitewater showed how good we really are, and it was great to realize our potential in those instances.”

Despite the rocky season, Wiercinski is optimistic about the team’s prospects for next year. The Maroons are only graduating four from their starting lineup.

“With each season, we are looking to improve. The seniors who will be graduating will be leaving big footsteps to fill, but we have a very young team with first-, second-, and third-years who have played a significant role over the season,” said Wiercinski.

Chicago will play Wash U tomorrow at 11 p.m. at Stagg Field.