Sunday, Sept. 17th’s home men's soccer game started off with high spirits and a scattered, but enthusiastic, crowd in the stands. On a cloudy day, the electric energy sparking on the field was almost tangible, as both Center College and DePauw teams warmed up for the game. This match was the sixth of the year, and also the team’s best win so far, according to Head Coach Steven McCarthy. With only two more games left till conference starts, hopes are up for more victories and improved gameplay for DePauw’s men’s soccer team.
The game itself was evenly matched, with several shots and saves alike. There was one disallowed goal by Center in the first half that had all the DePauw supporters breathing a sigh of relief, and our winning goal scored with only 30 minutes remaining raised loud, rippling cheers throughout the crowd. It wasn’t any easy score, because as hard as we pushed, Center fought back and both the teams’ goalkeepers were alert and active throughout. The goal was owed to Tye Williams, a sophomore, who stated that he was relieved when he scored, and definitely saw an improvement in his effort compared to the first half. He appreciated those who assisted him– Ben Weidner and Alex Backhaus, as well as the whole team for their collective efforts. Williams characterized the game as fast paced and high stakes and concluded that the hard-earned victory brought confidence for the upcoming games.
The tension was definitely high, just like the ball, which seemed to be getting passed around in the air by headers that players often relied on, making for a rather comical, though anticipatory, effect. While the main action - dribbling, tackling, passing - was taking place mostly in midfield, the goalkeepers on both sides remained on their toes and vigilant, even yelling out strategies at times. Coach McCarthy had a special shout out for the entire back line, including the goalie, in their collaborative and effective efforts, especially since they were in a new formation that had only been practiced for two days prior to the match. Despite this very recent change in positioning, the players did extremely well communicating and cooperating with one another, giving their 100% out on the field. In the previous games, like last Wednesday’s, Coach McCarthy recalled that most players admitted feeling as if they didn’t put in all they could have. However, this game saw a definite increase in work ethic and drive, as everyone seemed to take the coach’s advice of “leaving it all out on the field” to heart. At the half time huddle, the discussion focused on how the team could challenge themselves and push one another to be the best. The coach also felt that the “end of game management could have been better,” since a foul in the last two minutes opened up the possibility of a second goal for DePauw, but the opportunity was lost.
Over the course of the game, there were numerous free kicks and corners that resulted in tense tussles near the goalpost, and several near goals that had the onlookers on the edge of their seats. The flurry of fouls, red and yellow cards also brought with them both encouragement and expressions of disappointment from the sidelines, as players consoled and energized one another. The Center coach placed emphasis in his advice on having the “mentality,” time and time again calling out to his players that it's “everything about the mentality.” He was constantly cheering on his players and making sure they stayed on track, despite some moments of frustration and let downs.
By half time, the sun shone high in the sky, although there was the occasional cloud that passed overhead, casting its shadow across the field. Center immediately started running and passing drills, as well as stretching. Our team took a minute to discuss strategy and then they too dove into intense warm up drills. A junior at DePauw commented that we got off to a strong start, but both teams were evenly contesting one another and Center “pushed back” against our offense. He mentioned that the opponents knew that we were “playing direct” and hence waiting for the ball to come to their side. A Center players’ parent had a similar opinion, describing the game as competitive and aggressive on both sides.
Overall, DePauw bounced back with an outstanding victory, and we all hope to see the same energy, mindset and drive in the upcoming games. Go Tigers!