With half of the season already over for the men’s soccer team, the University of Dallas Crusaders are gearing up for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship Tournament on Nov. 7. In light of recent games, it is clear that the team is struggling to maintain their momentum and to finish the season strong. This begs the question: did they peak too early?
The Crusaders started out the season strong with a 5-1-1 record against the team’s seven conference opponents. With a strong freshman class and a new line-up, the Crusaders have been working hard to implement the changes and move up in the conference ranks. So far they have done a satisfactory job, beating Trinity University, the number one team in the NCAA Division III West Region, and tying Colorado College, a top-ten nationally ranked team. However, the second round of conference matches has been less than ideal for UD.
Facing Trinity and Schreiner University for a second time, Dallas was shut out in both matches, resulting in a 0-2 record for the weekend. This past weekend was also less than ideal, with a loss to Southwestern overshadowing their 2-1 win against Texas Lutheran University on Friday.
Friday’s match against the TLU Bulldogs was a strong showing for the Crusaders, who opened strong with two goals in the first half. Sophomore Luke Schwarz led the offense with involvement in both goals for the Crusaders. The first was a penalty kick at the 30:09 minute mark, his first goal of the season. In the final minute of the opening stanza, sophomore forward/midfielder Naseem Said connected on Schwarz’s cross from the right side of the field, finding the net just out of the diving keeper’s reach.
“We knew TLU was going to possess out of the back, so we had to press them higher up the field and take our chances when they came,” Schwarz commented.
After halftime, the Bulldogs came back to minimize the deficit in the 52nd minute, scoring the second penalty kick of the match. With a much closer game, the Crusaders worked to keep TLU off the scoreboard for the remainder of the half to get the win.
Sunday’s match against Southwestern resulted in an overtime loss for the Crusaders, ending a six-game winning streak at home. An even match for Dallas, the Southwestern Pirates kept the pace steady in the first half, neither scoring nor allowing a single goal.
Ending the first half with a 0-0 score, the second half carried a strong sense of anticipation. In the 61st minute, the Pirates broke the even tally, keeping the lead until the final minutes of the match. With fewer than five minutes in regulation play, freshman defender Eric Haigh launched a flip throw into the box, where Said got the ball to deflect off a Southwestern defender’s head into the back of the net. This sent the teams into overtime, which quickly resulted in a heartbreaking loss when Southwestern scored on the first shot of OT.
As this was the third loss in the second round of conference games, fans are starting to wonder if the team peaked too early or if they are just going through a rough patch.
“I think a lot of it boils down to being healthy and missing players. Over the past two weeks, freshman defender Sean Taylor, senior forward Colton Allen, Schwarz, Haigh and I have all missed games,” said junior forward/winger Barton Holdridge. “Our conference is so competitive that missing players can really change the outcome.”
The Crusaders are looking forward to the final matches of conference play and hope to stay healthy and prove their worth at the championship tournament.