Assistant Sports Editor
The Wheaton men’s soccer team (17-3-3) pushed their unbeaten streak to 13 games last weekend as they defeated Transylvania University (16-2-2) and Centre College (15-4-3) in the NCAA tournament first and second rounds, respectively. The wins earned the Thunder a berth in the national Sweet Sixteen, to be played this weekend at Loras College (21-1-1) in Dubuque, Iowa.
On Friday night, Nov. 9, Wheaton played host to the Pioneers of Transylvania in the first round of the tournament. In a game that quickly got physical, the Thunder were able to maintain their composure and play a strong first half. Two yellow cards were called on the Pioneers in each half, but the hosts stayed clean and attacked the Transylvania defense.
Wheaton outshot Transylvania 16-1 in the first half, but was not able to cash in on any of those shot opportunities, and the contest remained scoreless into halftime. They got their best chance in the 38th minute when freshman midfielder Jonathan Clark was pulled down by his jersey in the box, drawing a penalty. His brother, junior midfielder Josh Clark, made both of his penalty shots in Wheaton’s previous game, but he was wide left on his attempt this time, leaving the score 0-0.
After missing the CCIW tournament with an injury, freshman forward Marshall Hollingsworth started the second half on the pitch for the Thunder, and his speed helped him score the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal in the 74th minute. Clark played the ball up to Hollingsworth, who outran the Pioneer defender and found the back of the net to give his team the lead.
In the 79th minute, sophomore forward Adam Blackman was fouled in the box, earning Wheaton a second penalty shot attempt. Sophomore forward Noah Anthony got the ball past the diving keeper and inside the right post to give the Thunder a 2-0 lead.
With 1:30 remaining in the game, junior forward Mitchell Paur secured the victory with a breakaway goal after an assist from freshman forward Stephen Golz.
The win over Transylvania earned Wheaton a spot in the second round, where they squared off against the Colonels of Centre College on Saturday night, Nov. 10. Much like the first round game, the first half presented numerous scoring opportunities for the Thunder, but once again the half ended with the score 0-0.
After Paur, who normally acts as a substitution at forward, played well in the first half, Head Coach Michael Giuliano elected to begin the second half with Paur as left forward. Giuliano’s decision paid dividends five minutes into the period.
Blackman’s initial shot from the right was saved by Centre goalkeeper Zach Sosnovich, but the deflected ball rolled towards the left side and a sprinting Paur beat his man to the ball and slid in time to get a foot on the ball and roll it into the open net. It was Paur’s third goal of the season and his second of the tournament.
The Thunder added some insurance with eight minutes remaining on another deflection goal. This time Blackman was on the scoring end, as Hollingsworth’s shot was deflected and Blackman put the loose ball in the net.
Wheaton took 21 shots to Centre’s nine. Sosnovich made four saves while allowing two goals, and Seager saved four and once again did not allow a goal, turning in his second straight shutout.
The win advances Wheaton to the third round, where they will face Dominican University. The Stars handed Wheaton one of their three losses on the year on Sept. 18, a 2-0 defeat in River Forest. The game is scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. tonight, Nov. 16, at Loras. The winner will move on to the Elite Eight to face the winner of the Loras vs. Wisconsin Platteville matchup. The Elite Eight game will be played tomorrow night, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. Both games will be streamed live on Loras’ athletics site at www.duhawks.com.
Banner Credit: Frank Scoffield; Photo Credit: Allison Freet
Printed in the November 16, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.