This week the University of Dallas’ Men’s Soccer squad traveled to Alabama to play their first conference match against a very tough squad, the Birmingham-Southern Panthers. An experienced team with seven seniors on the field this season (while Dallas had only two), it would be a tough and well fought match to maintain composure and possession of the ball.
Statistically both teams put up a relatively equal fight. Birmingham did have an edge on shots and shots on goal, taking 17 shots, seven of which were on goal to Dallas’ 10 shots with four shots on goal. Birmingham also seemed to play quite physically, a characteristic very common to conference play, and they recorded 16 fouls to Dallas’ eight.
Learning the ropes of the newly joined Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) play as fast as possible, the match left its inertial state as soon as the whistle blew. Michael Chapman and Preston Waltrip, both recovered from injuries, the former a torn ACL and the latter a broken arm, got to play together in their first match of the year since last season. Sophomore midfielder/forward Michael O’Donnell also started in his first match of his UD career, a start that led to a comeback goal for Dallas in the second half.
The match was goalless throughout the first half until the 22nd minute when Garner Shivers, Birmingham’s star senior forward, penetrated the Dallas defense and landed the opening goal to put Birmingham up 1-0 in the middle of the half. A second goal came 12 minutes later, also from Shivers, putting Dallas down 2-0 heading into the second half. The second half was reminiscent of UD’s previous comeback fury, and the Crusaders fought for every second to return the fire that Birmingham had started. A spark occured when Joey Killion played a long ball to O’Donnell who finished the ball with a header to the back of the net. After this goal both teams continued to fight, however, Dallas did not see the back of the net again and lost the match 2-1 to Birmingham.
The second match of the weekend was played against Oglethorpe University. The Petrels led 1-0 going into the second-half, but they put Dallas in an extremely defensive position by scoring three more goals in their second half assault. Oglethorpe was 6-2 before beginning SCAC play. The match resembled the previous game against Birmingham with physical players and a quick speed of play.
With an evenly played first half, the second half unveiled cannon fodder on UD’s defensive third. Oglethorpe unleashed a fury of shots on the Crusaders, with 14 shots in the second half alone, twice as much as Dallas attempted in the match itself. The first and second goals of the second half were in the 55th and the 69th minute. These goals were initiated when Oglethorpe’s midfield played a through ball to the opposite post that was finished in the back of the net. Their final goal of the match and third goal of the second half was an airborne through ball to their forward who finished the shot in the left pocket of the net.
Dallas’ SCAC record stands at 0-2 after the tough weekend losses. While this start is surely unfortunate, the Crusaders can certainly fire back as they did in preseason so long as their improvements continue each practice and each game. Their next match is against Sewanee at Crusader Field on Friday at 4 p.m.