On the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 10, Wesleyan men’s soccer kicked off 2011 with drama and fireworks. After a gritty battle with the sixth-ranked nationally Bowdoin Polar Bears resulted in a 2-2 score at the end of regulation, forward Evan Hazelett ’13 scored a mere 1:25 into overtime off a pass from midfielder Matt Hertgen ’15 to fix the victory for the Cardinals.
Earlier in the day, Wesleyan came storming forth to gain a 2-0 advantage. Rory O’Neill ’13 headed a free kick from Ian Waldron ’13 past the Polar Bear goalkeeper in the 14th minute. Just ten minutes later, forward Walter Rodriguez ’13 guided an attempt by Hazelett into the left side of the net. Against an obviously high-caliber team, the Cards were sitting pretty.
Yet Bowdoin righted their ship a little in the 31st minute as forward Sam White ’15 headed a corner kick into Wesleyan’s goal. Then, as the 71st minute of the match elapsed, a familiar sinking feeling took hold within stomachs across Cardinal Country. Polar Bear forward Alex Marecki ’14 shot a one-hopper past Cardinal goalpeeker Adam Purdy ’13 and into the left side of the net, tying the score at two apiece and officially erasing Wesleyan’s lead.
The storyline felt all too similar to the way numerous matches had gone for the Cardinals last season. In 2010, the Redbirds jumped out in front of opponents within the opening minutes of games, only to wear down and see their opponents battle back for the tie or the victory. Indeed, Wesleyan’s last contest of the year was a 2-1 loss in the NESCAC semifinal at the hands of none other than the Polar Bears, a match that saw the Cards maintain a 1-0 lead for most of the first half.
Saturday, however, was a different story. While Bowdoin had moderate success controlling the pace of the rest of regulation with the longball, Wesleyan staved off several late game attacks with the help of solid defending and five saves by Purdy, who had six on that day. Once overtime commenced, the rest was history.
“I don’t think I’ve ever scored a game-winning goal in my life,” Hazelett reflected afterward.
“It’s been my experience that the teams in the NESCAC are all pretty evenly matched. Some teams are especially good at getting the job done when it counts, and last year we learned that Bowdoin was one of those teams,” he continued.
“[With the win] I think we sent a really glaring message not only to the league but to the rest of the nation that we’re one of those teams–a team to be reckoned with,” he said.
The Cardinals look to continue to prove themselves this Tuesday afternoon. Come by Jackson Field at 4:30 p.m. to show your support.