It was a bad omen for the Tigers (10-8-1, 5-3-1) when their team bus struck and killed a deer as they made the nearly four hour journey to Ohio Wesleyan University (15-3-2, 8-0-1) for the first round of the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament.
The following day, the Tigers season died as well, as DePauw fell to the Battling Bishops 3-2 on a cold evening at Ohio Wesleyan’s Jay Martin Soccer Complex.
“No chance for an at large [bid],” DePauw head coach Brad Hauter said. “This was our final game.”
The Battling Bishops’ Matt Cohen opened the scoring just 90 seconds in to give Ohio Wesleyan the early lead. Adding to the theme of death and injuries was DePauw goalkeeper Jake Pezzuto who suffered an injury and was unable to return.
“I turned in an awkward way in the air trying to reach the ball,” Pezzuto said. “As I came down, I landed very hard on my upper leg, the force shot down through and my lower leg kicked out and I hyperextended my knee very badly.”
In his place came junior Chris Yount who had played over 1000 minutes less than Pezzuto this year.
“It was unfortunate for Jake because it was his last game at DePauw,” sophomore Mitch Tabler, who also played his last game for the Tigers, said. “I know I and the team have 100% confidence in Chris and his performance was outstanding.”
Yount faced four shots before senior Andy Morrison tied the game just over 17 minutes after the game’s opening goal on a cross from sophomore Julian Gonzalez.
With Morrison’s goal, the forward closes out his career at DePauw with 41 goals, a mark good enough to place him third on the school’s all-time scoring list just eight goals behind J.R. Foster for the overall record.
The tie was quickly broken, however, as Colton Bloecher put the Battling Bishops right back on top, scoring only three minutes after Morrison’s tally.
“We had just survived a very emotionally damaging goal by getting scored on in the 2nd minute,” Hauter said. “Responding as we did and then giving up another so soon is tough but I felt our guys managed the emotion well.”
Things would only get worse for the Tigers as the Battling Bishops notched an insurance marker in the 76th minute of the second half off the foot of Evan Lee.
The Tigers then faced an uphill battle to keep their season alive. Trailing by two goals with 15 minutes left, DePauw needed a win to continue on to the NCAC championship game and stave off the offseason.
Not wanting the season to end, junior Mitch Reavis, Reavis Stadium’s namesake, cut the Ohio Wesleyan lead to one with just under 9 minutes left in regulation.
“When their third goal went in, we came together and decided we had two options: give up, or man up,” Reavis said. “We chose to leave it all on the field giving them a scare with the second goal and pressing for a third until the final whistle. That’s all you can ask for out of your team.”
“Loved our response down 3-1,” Hauter said. “We pushed another player high and played the last 15 minutes with only two backs. We created a lot of chances and got it to 2-3.”
Despite creating a few late opportunities after the Reavis goal, the Tigers ended up falling by a final score of 3-2.
“Loved the way our guys fought,” Hauter said. “Plenty of chances to give up and they fought the whole time.”
This makes two straight down seasons for a historically successful DePauw soccer program. This marks back to back seasons that the Tigers have failed to reach the NCAA tournament. It’s the second straight year that the Battling Bishops have eliminated the Tigers in the first round of the NCAA tournament as well. The loss also marked to straight winless seasons against the rival Battling Bishops despite four meetings during that span.
Now it’s on to the offseason, where the Tigers will have to find a way to improve despite losing six seniors. With eight losses on the season, there’s no point in Hauter extending practices up to the NCAA selection show.
“No more training we are done,” Hauter said. “[End of season] banquet, player meetings, then onto 2015.”