Was Saturday’s 1-0 win finally the “full 90 minutes” head Coach Brad Hauter had been talking about?
“This was an absolutely incredible effort from our guys,” Hauter said. “There were a lot of external elements that could have distracted the guys but they were locked in. It was a terrific 90 minute effort from our guys but I know we can play better.”
Hard to believe it could get better after DePauw’s (5-3, 1-0) win over nationally ranked Hiram College (5-3, 0-1) in Saturday’s NCAC opener.
However, it still wasn’t the easiest way for DePauw to open their conference schedule. The Terriers came into Saturday’s tilt as the 16th ranked team in the nation, but they sure didn’t look like it.
The Tigers dominated in almost every facet of the game. DePauw goalkeeper, senior Jake Pezzuto didn’t face a single shot on net and the Tigers attempted eight more shots than their Terrier counterparts.
“Honestly, the way we played, we kept the ball moving, played one, two touch soccer and when we possessed the ball like that, they couldn’t touch us,” Pezzuto said.
Hauter agreed the Tiger's defense played a huge factor in their win.
“Defensively I am very pleased with the effort,” Hauter said. “Hiram is a high scoring offensive team that was averaging over three goals per game. We shut them out for the first time, limited them to four shots and none were dangerous."
However, like the previous game against Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the Tigers struggled to capitalize. DePauw waited around until the 70th minute to finally get the breakthrough they were looking for. Off of a back heel pass from sophomore Zachary Hoffman, sophomore Jonathan Wheeler put a shot past Hiram keeper Matt Sacher to give the Tigers all the offense they would need.
“Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork,” Wheeler emphasized. “It was no individual effort that gave us the goal, but a solid team buildup and an easily slotted ball into the net.”
Wheeler has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers as they look to find a new goal scorer, with Andy Morrison set to graduate in May.
As a first-year, Wheeler appeared in 10 games and scored once for the Tigers. In only eight games this year, he’s already scored twice and has become a much larger presence on the field.
“There is nothing more satisfying than being able to be part of this team on and off the field and help contribute to the win,” Wheeler said. “Being able to have a big play isn’t important for yourself but you do it for the guys around you.”
With key conference matchups against Kenyon College and Ohio Wesleyan University right around the corner, beginning the NCAC portion of their schedule was vital for the Tigers.
“Since I’ve been playing here the NCAC has always been widely known as one of the toughest conferences in the nation,” Wheeler said. “With Kenyon and Hiram both being in the top 25 it is no secret that we are being matched up against the best competition possible.”
The level of competition in the conference is higher than ever before. Two teams are still have an undefeated record and six out of the ten teams have a winning record.
“It is incredible,” Hauter said. “I think that all teams realistically can reach the conference tournament, and we will all pull points off one another over the next few weeks so it will be interesting to see who is left standing at the end.”
Next up for the Tigers is one of two remaining non-conference games. DePauw will play host to Anderson University on Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m.