In its last out-of-conference game of the season, the men’s soccer team pummeled Salve Regina, scoring four goals and allowing none. Playing under the lights of Jackson Field, the Cardinals broke through their season high of two goals in a single game and brought their overall record of the season to 6-2-2.
“Everyone was excited to have our first night game ever, so we played with a lot of energy, and we had lots of fun out there,” wrote forward Omar Bravo ’15 in an email to The Argus. “We all appreciated the fans that came out to support us.”
To get the plot underway, Bravo hit the back of the net in the 16th minute after beating a defender one-on-one.
“We had won the ball back and the Salve defense was a bit disorganized,” he wrote. “Danny Rubenstein [’17], who had a fantastic performance, took notice and played me a long diagonal ball. As the defender and I were running toward the ball, I knew I had to get to the ball first so I decided to slide tackle and luckily I came away with the ball. The keeper did a good job of coming off his line, so I made the quick decision to shoot far post and fortunately it went [in].”
Matt Lynch ’15, who scored the second goal of the match, noted the importance of Bravo’s score in setting the tone for the rest of the game.
“[Bravo’s] energy brought the momentum of the rest of the team,” he said in an interview with The Argus. “Everybody else fed off of his energy, and it was really positive for the rest of our team.”
“When I came on about 20 minutes [before] halftime, we were already really excited to get the rest of the game going,” Lynch continued. “We knew we were going to score more goals. We were playing under the lights, so that brought a different energy we didn’t necessarily have in the other games throughout the season. But also we were playing on turf, which is much more conducive to our play style. Being a pass-oriented team, it’s easier to connect with different teammates on the turf.”
The lead-up to Lynch’s goal—his second of the season—exemplified the team’s efficient ball movement; though Matt Hertgen ’15 came up with the assist, multiple players bounced the ball up the offensive third to set up the score.
“I think it was either a centerback or Emmett [McConnell ’15 who] hit the ball up,” Lynch said. I saw Gabe [Tagliamonte ’18] and Taylor Chin [’18] on my right, and I flicked it on; Gabe passed it to Chin; then Chin hit it back post to Hertgen; Hertgen headed it back across to me in the box, which was a really unselfish move by him because he could have easily taken one on goal. But we’ve been practicing getting the ball back across the box when we’re in that position. [The] goalie was out of position, and it was an easy tap-in for me.”
Almost immediately after halftime, Rubenstein chalked up his second assist of the game by setting up Brandon Sousa ’16 for Sousa’s second goal of the season. Just seven minutes later, a free kick allowed Sousa to feed the ball to Chris Kafina ’16 for a header that hit the net for Wesleyan’s fourth goal of the match. It was also Kafina’s second score of the season.
The Cardinals’ offensive superiority was showcased not only through the scoreboard but also by the number of opportunities they created for themselves, a theme they have maintained throughout most of the season. Wes fired 16 total shots, 12 of which were on goal.
“We are feeling more confident about our scoring ability,” Bravo wrote. “Not only that, but given that we had four different goal scorers, we know that we do not have to rely on any single player to score.”
In addition to such a dangerous offense, Lynch credited the Wesleyan defense for playing a pivotal role in shutting down Salve Regina and keeping pressure farther up the field. The Cards’ defense shut down Salve Regina to only eight total shots, of which only three were on target.
“We really focused on ball speed; that was one of the keys to the game,” Lynch said. “Getting the ball, getting off the ball very quickly. Not necessarily to tire out the defense but to play our style. When the ball was moving, it was obvious that we had a lot of energy and momentum going forward. We also wanted to pinch in a little tighter so it was harder for them to move throughout the midfield. [Salve Regina’s] key players in the game were number nine and number five, and the [Wesleyan] backline played a fantastic game [on Tuesday]. Rubenstein, [Ben] Bratt [’15], [Ben] Toulotte [’16], and [Nick] Jackson [’18] all shut down their quick player up top. And the midfield players shut down number five. We dominated the game because of that defensive-minded force.”
Wesleyan’s sights are now set on the match this Saturday, Oct. 11 against Williams. In preparation, the team is doing everything from resting to reading.
“Right now, it’s all about recovery,” Bravo wrote. “We have a couple of important players that need to take care of their injuries. Hopefully we can see Danny Issroff [’15] getting more minutes. Also, we all hope to see Spencer Tanaka [’15] on the field given that he’s been recovering from an ACL sprain since before preseason. Although Williams is a big rival, we aren’t putting too much importance on their name and what they have done in the past. We are just concentrating on us and making sure that we are doing what needs to be done to win games against any team.”
Lynch continued to place importance on the whole team buying into a philosophy of 100 percent focus prior to Saturday’s Little Three matchup.
“The next couple days, a lot of the guys are going to be hitting the library just to make sure we have everything in order in the classroom,” Lynch said. “We’re leaving on Saturday morning, and we’re going to be completely focused. We’re urging everyone on the team to hit the books the next couple of days.”
With a 6-2-2 season and 4-1 NESCAC record Wesleyan currently sits above the Ephs’ record of 5-4-1 overall and 3-2 in-conference in the ’CAC standings. If the Cardinals continue on the trajectory they are currently on, the match against Williams will exhibit plentiful scoring opportunities and, hopefully, multiple shots in the back of the Ephs’ net.
“We’re not at our potential yet,” Lynch said. “Every game I feel like we’re bringing different energy to the field and playing better as a team and individually. Against Williams, we hope to up it another notch and play even better than we did against Salve Regina.”