The University of Dallas men’s soccer team took care of business in Saturday’s Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) semi-final matchup against sixth-seeded Southwestern, beating the Pirates 4-1.
As the second-place team in the conference the Crusaders got a bye to the semifinals while Southwestern upset the three-seed Colorado College 1-0 on Friday afternoon.
The rest, as well as home-field advantage, seemed to favor the Crusaders. They had multiple scoring chances, particularly early in the game.
“It’s massively helpful; Southwestern had to go through a very tough match with Colorado College yesterday in the quarterfinal,” head coach David Hoffman said of the bye. “Ninety minutes played against a regionally ranked team is going to take something out of everybody, and frankly, that was part of our tactical intention at the beginning of the game was to try and be on the front foot and take advantage of what we assumed was going to be more energy throughout the game.”
In the eighth minute, UD finally converted when junior defender Eric Haigh had a throw in from the corner and sophomore Hunter Haugland headed it into the goal from the backside.
“Eric had a nice throw in and I was back post, and we’ve been practicing that all season and finally had one connect and I was able to put one in off a good throw from him,” Haugland said.
The goal came right in front of the UD student section in what was clearly the biggest and best crowd the Crusaders have had all season.
“I think with the crowd out there they’re really supporting us and getting us all hyped up. I think it was a good way to start off the game, and we were able to capitalize on our chances throughout,” Haugland said.
The Crusaders kept the pressure on through most of the first half, outshooting the Pirates 12-2 in the half. Freshman midfielder Chase Reynolds nearly doubled the advantage about halfway through the period after hitting a shot off the post.
The energy started to wane for the Crusaders toward the end of the half as they were unable to convert on a few opportunities and Southwestern got some offensive chances of their own.
As the Pirates began to gain the momentum late in the first half, the Crusaders were able to clear the ball out and left sophomore forward Chima Ogueri with the ball in the open field. Ogueri sped past one defender as Southwestern defender Jesse Guerrero unsuccessfully tried to cut Ogueri off.
“As soon as I got the ball I just knew I had to be relaxed and just play how I usually play as myself and putting that goal in as you can tell their morale just kind of fell a little bit so the timing couldn’t have been better,” Ogueri said.
The goal gave the Crusaders a 2-0 advantage in the 41st minute, a lead they’d take into halftime.
The Crusaders got a scare early in the second half as freshman Nat Kajiwara went up to handle a goal kick from goalkeeper Sean Carlin. Kajiwara collided with a Southwestern player and went down, appearing to hurt his hip and neck.
With Kajiwara sidelined, Haugland was able to net another goal on a breakaway from left side to make it 3-0 in the 56th minute. Junior midfielder Andrew Ciancone assisted on the goal.
Southwestern kept playing and forward Jake Swonke netted a goal in the 63rd minute to get the Pirates on the board.
After some work with the trainer, Kajiwara was able to return to the game and scored a goal of his own in the 79th minute off an assist from Ogueri.
The win was the first SCAC tournament win in school history. UD will now move on to face top-seeded Trinity in the championship at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Trinity is 19-1 and ranked second in the country. However, that one loss came at the hands of the Crusaders in San Antonio, a 3-2 win for UD in overtime. When they met in Irving, Trinity prevailed 3-2 in double overtime. The Crusaders won’t be intimidated.
“The biggest key to the game is this is not a new team that we’ve played, we’ve played them twice, every single time we’ve played them it’s been a close game,” Ogueri said.
“I think it’s important to play them,” Hoffman said. “Honestly, I feel like a lot of folks think the solution is to try and play for a draw, and you know to whatever degree we’ve had success, […] we try to treat them like a soccer team and not like demigods and just go play.”
“The key tomorrow is going to be to take it as another game,” Ogueri said. “Obviously there’s a lot more on the line just because it’s a championship game but we’ve played them before, we know how they’re going to play.”
“We’ll just take our chances playing how we enjoy the game and how we play,” Hoffman said. “We like to be free flowing, we like to attack the goal and we don’t like to bore people to death with our soccer and we don’t want to spend 90 minutes of our lives that way.”