Last week, the men’s soccer team hit the road for two conference games. Following a close contest with Tufts that ended 1-0 against Wesleyan’s favor, the Cards trumped Bates on Saturday, Sept. 20 with two goals over their opponents’ one in a decisive match dominated by the Red and Black.
Though Bates started off with a breakaway one-on-one that led to its only goal of the game, Wes responded 18 minutes in with a goal scored by Brandon Sousa ’16. Another goal from Matt Lynch ’15 secured victory in the 67th minute. Both goals were assisted by midfielder Hans Erickson ’16.
“We wanted to make them defend us, we wanted to pressure them at all times, and we wanted to score a lot of goals,” Sousa wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “Going down 1-0 in the first 22 seconds was not an ideal start, but we all [knew] we were still going to win the game. We showed a lot of character to score two goals and come back to win the game.”
Determined and unfazed by Bates’ early breakaway goal, Wes quickly turned things around. Lynch relayed the optimism expressed by Head Coach Geoff Wheeler in the face of an early Bates goal and Wesleyan’s subsequent domination of the game, a domination seen most clearly in the difference in offensive productivity of both teams: the Cardinals fired 27 total shots with seven on goal over five total shots by the Bobcats, of which only two were on goal.
“Coach [Wheeler] said…right after [Bates] scored, he knew that we were going to win,” Lynch said. “We had a great energy coming off that goal scored against us.”
Lynch further attributed the win to superior play showcased by the Cardinals.
“Two minutes after [Bates’ goal], it was apparent that we were the better team,” Lynch said. “Our passes were pretty on-point, and we didn’t lose many second balls. This was a direct contrast to the way the Tufts game went. We held possession of the ball really well. We had a lot of chances: 27 shots and seven shots on goal kind of goes to show how offensively-minded we were, trying to get back on the scoreboard.”
Indeed, Sousa’s goal was a credit to the active and pressing offense.
“Around the time of my goal we had been creating a lot of chances and we felt like the goal was going to come any second,” Sousa wrote. “They had no response to our pressure and we were pinning them in their own half.”
In the second period, Lynch capitalized on an opportunity created by Erickson, pulling the Cards ahead and helping chalk up another win for Wes.
“[The ball] comes from the outside, gets crossed in, gets deflected out to Hans, and Hans is right on top of the box,” Lynch said. “I know he’s going to hit it, because that’s what he does when he’s on top of the box with a lot of space. I rush the goalie because I know his hands aren’t as secure as they should be. The ball dropped in front of him, and I just put my body on the line and tapped it in for a goal.”
Lynch’s goal also came from an untiring offensive push by the Cards in which they took advantage of openings that the team had been practicing to create.
“It was pretty nice, the play leading up to [my goal],” Lynch said. “We practice getting numbers [into] different parts of the box, not only front-post/back-post but also framing the outside of the penalty box. And Hans was in the perfect position to have that pretty clear shot on goal.”
Lynch outlined two key factors that made Wesleyan’s dominance possible.
“The first thing is the backline,” he said. “I think we have the most solid defensive line in the ’CAC right now. The second thing that goes behind that is the depth of our team, with players coming off the bench like Max Jones [’16] and new players starting like Garrett [Hardesty ’18] and [Adam] Cowie-Haskell [’18]. All the players that we have on the bench and all the players that we have on the field contribute to this energy that’s sustained throughout the entire game. So it’s always exciting being in the mix and witnessing different players bring different things to the field and to the team. It gives us a better way to exploit opponent’s defenses as well. Coach [Wheeler] sees different holes and things in the back line and puts in people who he thinks could be the most advantageous to the situation.”
Wesleyan’s victory over Bates came after a tough loss to Tufts, a game which ended in the first overtime period when a Jumbo’s shot broke the silence of a scoreless match.
“The Tufts game was a good indicator of the common phrase ‘it’s hard to break habits in soccer,’” Lynch said. “Before [Tufts], we [played] two away games and two games without scoring. Tufts was the third game that we had on the road; it was also the third game that we had where we didn’t score. So we were finding ourselves conforming to a sort of pattern that was developing over the past couple weeks. We can make excuses for why we didn’t get a result but really it was almost like we lost focus of what we wanted as a team. We had a long conversation before practice. Danny Issroff [’15] talked to the team and we all joined in on ways we can improve and fix our mentality. And we brought it. We brought it on Saturday.”
The Cardinals are now seeking to ride momentum from the weekend into Wednesday’s contest against Western New England at 4 p.m. On Saturday, the Cards will return to NESCAC play, facing Hamilton at 1 p.m. Both games are hosted by Wesleyan.
“[Out-of-conference] games are just as important [as] our NESCAC games,” Sousa wrote. “Our mentality will be the same as it was against Bates: Pressure, pressure, pressure.”
Lynch echoed Sousa’s enthusiasm, adding a flavor of grit and a determination to win.