UCI Men’s Soccer failed to break their losing trend, dropping Wednesday’s game 1-0 to Loyola Marymount at Anteater Stadium. The ‘Eaters put a whopping 9 shots on goal but were thwarted each time by the diving acrobatics of Lions junior goalkeeper Colin Partee. UCI’s 15 shots, including the 9 on target, are both season highs for the team, but the lack of scoring is something that needs improvement.
“We are creating more chances,” said head coach Chris Volk. “I thought their goalkeeper made some really good saves to keep them in the game. Scoring goals is probably one of the hardest things in this game, and we’re lacking that right now.”
Senior midfielder Michael Sperber kept the Lions’ defenders busy in the first half with a couple of top shelf blasts that Partee was barely able to deflect.
LMU attacked with pressure in the early going as well, outshooting UCI in the first half 6-4. The Lions even appeared to take the lead after converting a corner kick, but after a lengthy discussion the referees determined LMU was offside.
The ‘Eaters came out strong in a second half that saw them fire 11 shots and 5 corner kicks but could not get on the scoreboard. A free kick in the 56th minute by Sperber was saved by a diving Partee. UCI maintained possession but the subsequent cross and header on goal was again stopped by Partee’s fingertips.
The Lions were finally able to push through in the 67th minute on a rebounded free kick. UCI keeper Elliot Farmer saved the initial attempt but could not hang on to the ball as Matthew Gooden came in and rolled it into the net.
To their credit, the ‘Eaters remained undeterred earning three of their corners in the last five minutes, and sent a header with decent velocity on goal in the 89th minute only to be saved by Partee. The single LMU goal proved to be the difference as UCI failed to capture the elusive equalizer and were shut out yet again.
“We’ve only scored 3 goals in 6 games, so that’s initiative to adjust,” said Volk. “You can only expect us to defend so much, and one mistake in the back, same thing with Santa Clara, we make one mistake and end up losing with the same result.”
The loss drops the ‘Eaters to 1-5 on the year, which is disappointing considering the manner of the contests.
“Confidence is not very high right now, last 4 games have all been 1-goal games. We’ve won one and lost three. I told guys I need them to be difference makers. I need guys to step up and seize the opportunity to assert themselves.”
Although the win column doesn’t reflect it, UCI has been competitive so far this season and with a little luck could turn it around.
“Our quality of chances are getting better. They got credited with 9 saves. Sooner or later one’s going to fall our way. We got to keep plugging along. But it’s been frustrating, trying to keep the spirits up. We’re in a rut right now, and the next opponent is not any easier,” said Volk.
UCI fell yet again in non-conference play 3-1 on Saturday at home to New Mexico. The ‘Eaters found themselves in a hole early on and could not dig themselves out and overcome the speed and pressure of the Lobos. UCI was able to register a goal after being shut out the last two consecutive contests, but New Mexico forward Niko Hansen found the net three times for a hat trick.
Hansen got going quickly, putting the Lobos up one only 3 minutes into the match. The UCI back line allowed the ball to linger in the box a little too long, as Hansen stayed focused on flicked it past the keeper.
“We can’t give up an early goal that was inexcusable,” said head coach Chris Volk. “You’re already down a goal, but once we settled in the game I thought we were okay.”
The Lobos threatened again almost immediately, but UCI keeper Elliot Farmer was able to make the stop.
On the offensive end, the ‘Eaters struggled to create chances against a suffocating defensive effort from New Mexico. Their advances were constantly being snuffed out in the first half as they were awarded only one corner kick and were outshot 8-5.
As UCI looked to rebound in the second half, any momentum they were trying to build was halted when Hansen struck again in the 50th minute. As Farmer went to clear the ball, Hansen ran full speed to block the clearance which ricocheted off his shins and into the net.
“The second goal took the wind out of our sails and really wasn’t necessary. It was a comical goal,” remarked Volk.
The route was on when Hansen completed the hat trick in the 56th minute. A pass into the box from Lobo Sam Gleadle deflected off an ‘Eater defender onto the waiting foot of Hansen, who rolled it past the keeper to extend New Mexico’s lead to 3-0.
Senior defender Matthew Tilley stopped the bleeding only a minute later to put UCI on the board. Sophomore midfielder Luis Leon curved a beautiful corner kick into the box which Tilley was able to head home over the keeper.
The ‘Eaters put forth a rejuvenated effort, earning 6 corners in the second half, but were unable to find the back of the net again.
Tilley, a senior and captain of the team, believes this team has what it takes to turn it around once conference play begins next week.
“Starting with a couple losses is really hard so it gets tough at times to pick our heads up,” he said. “I think in the last few games, I hate to say it, but I feel like we have been unlucky. Guys show up for practice and we try and do things right, we just had a bit of a hard stretch. I’m confident that we’ll pick it up and when we get into conference we’ll be a different team for sure.”
The ’Eaters fall to 1-6 on the season, and go on the road to take on Oregon State and Portland before conference play begins. Volk and the team look to work out the kinks and gain some momentum before taking on Sacramento State in their first Big West game on Oct. 1.
“Hopefully we can establish who our most competitive starting 11 is. That’s really what I’m looking for, I don’t think we’ve found it yet,” said Volk. “We want to reestablish confidence within the group, knowing that when we get into conference it’s a clean slate. Every game we keep chalking up to experience but two of the three goals we gave up tonight were inexcusable.”