The men’s soccer team was handed its second loss of the season on the road on Tuesday, Sept. 24, falling 1-0 to Western New England University.
Wesleyan had lost only twice in eight previous meetings with the Springfield, Mass. university, going 4-2-2, including a win in the 2009 NCAA tournament, but the Cards were unable to deliver on any of their golden opportunities in the game.
Before the game, Wesleyan keeper Emmett McConnell ’15 was named NESCAC Player of the Week, making him the second Cardinal to receive that honor in three weeks. The goaltender had two consecutive shutouts last week against conference opponents Tufts and Bates and has allowed just two goals in four complete games of action this season.
After having some competition at the position, McConnell seems to have separated himself from other goaltenders with his consecutive strong performances. However, he was unable to prevent a defeat this week for his team, allowing one goal to the WNE Golden Bears in the 28th minute; one goal was all the hosts needed.
Wesleyan controlled possession for much of the first half, outshooting the opponents 8-4 over that time. However, each team only put two shots on goal in the period, and, unfortunately for the Cardinals, the Bears were able to convert.
Brandon Sousa ’16 gave the Cards their best chance of the half in the 24th minute as they looked to take an early lead. He received the ball with Golden Bear goalie Dominick Villano out of position, but his hard shot at the goal deflected off the outside post.
The home squad came back from that scare quickly. As Wesleyan traded passes in its own end, Western New England midfielder Kory Caster stole a pass and crossed it to team-leading scorer Jake Bartnik in the center of the field. Bartnik converted on his sixth goal of the year.
Wesleyan’s best chances at evening the score came on a strong offensive push in the waning minutes of the contest. After putting just one shot on goal until the 84th minute, Dylan Hoy ’17 fired two blasts on Villano in the 84th and 85th minutes, but the senior goalie stopped both of them. Sousa again had a chance two minutes later, but that shot went wide, too.
The Cardinals weren’t able to maintain the same level of discipline in this game as they did against previous opponent Bates; they were flagged for 12 penalties against WNE compared to two in the previous game. Offensive weapons Matt Lynch ’15 and Sousa also both earned costly yellow cards in the final minutes of the first half and in the opening minutes of the second half, respectively.
McConnell finished the game with two saves. Wesleyan doubled up its opponents with 12 shots to WNE’s six, with five on goal to the Bears’ three.
Wesleyan fell to 4-2, while Western New England improved to 6-2-1.
“We created a lot of good chances in the first half, but failed to capitalize on any of them,” wrote Captain Danny Issroff ’15, who did not play in Tuesday’s game, in an email to The Argus. “After they scored, they were able to sit back and defend. This made it tough for us to create openings.”
The Cardinals will look to stay unbeaten against NESCAC opponents this Saturday, Sept. 28 as they travel to Clinton, N.Y. for a matchup during Hamilton’s annual “Fallcoming.” Hamilton is 1-2-2 on the season, and 0-1-2 in the conference this young season.
“We’re gonna have to be better in the opposing final third against Hamilton,” Issroff wrote. “I imagine it will be a similar kind of game where [we] will have most of the ball and they will look to defend well and nip a goal on the counter attack. Creativity around the box and the commitment to get numbers forward will be key to breaking them down.”
A potential concern for the Cardinals should be their recent anemic attacking play. After scoring six goals in their first two games, they have managed just three goals in their four games since. They’ll look to break out against the struggling Hamilton Continentals, who are scoring less than a goal per game this year on average but are also allowing just one per game.
Issroff remains optimistic about the season.
“We’re playing well in the league and hope to continue to do that,” he wrote.