Men’s soccer looks ahead after promising season

Freshman Zach Broujos battles past the opposition during loss versus Carnegie Mellon on Nov. 1.

Charlotte Palmer / Observer

Freshman Zach Broujos battles past the opposition during loss versus Carnegie Mellon on Nov. 1.

J.P. O'Hagan, Staff Reporter

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As the soccer season comes to an end, the Spartans can hold their heads high and have bright hope for the future. Following Saturday’s game at home against the University of Rochester, the team said goodbye to leading seniors and hello to a bright future.

After a dismal 3-14-1 season last year, the Spartans saw a huge turnaround and finished the year at 6-7-4 in head coach Brandon Bianco’s first season. The win earlier in the season over the University of Chicago and the tie in the match versus New York University helped the Spartans clinch this spot and end the season ranked seventh in the UAA conference with a record of 1-5-1.

The Spartans are a young team learning to compete in one of collegiate soccer’s toughest conferences and it was just a single goal by the number 18 nationally ranked Yellowjackets that made difference between joy and heartbreak in the final game of the season.

The Spartans came out strong in their final game of the season to face the formidable Yellowjackets. Despite a relentless barrage of shots by Rochester, the Case defense stood firm leading to a scoreless match at the half. The stalemate continued deep into the second half as neither team were able to find the back of the net. Finally, Rochester’s Andrew Greenway’s header broke through the Spartan wall when he redirected a long throw-in into the Spartan net. The eventual game winner was scored at the 76:29 mark, leaving Case little time to stage a comeback.

With about two minutes left, the Spartans pushed into the Rochester half searching for the tying goal and a capping finish to the season. Midfielder Chris Cvecko sent in rocket that was punched away last minute by a diving Rochester goalkeeper. Despite the loss, the Spartans demonstrated some real skill against the top-ranked team in the University Athletics Association conference. Rochester led in shots, 20-6, but it was the Case defense that shone through as they foiled attempt after attempt by the Yellowjackets to walk away with a win. Ari Lewis had four saves in the match including two impressive and crucial saves back-to-back halfway through the first half.
Lewis’s play in addition to several key defensive stands by the Spartans left Bianco feeling optimistic about the team’s future. “I thought the team played well in moments throughout the end of the year, but we had some breakdowns that hurt us. These are something we’ll learn from,” Bianco said, “We need to be sharper in our attacking and defensive third and as we grow and mature I know we’ll do just that.”

As the final game of the season, the team also said goodbye to their two seniors, Marco Patrie and Elshaday Belay. The pair had provided veteran leadership for the rising players. “We never want to see people leave (graduate), but their contribution has been a big one,” said Bianco, “They have helped lay a great foundation here.” The seniors will definitely be missed as the team tries to continue on their path to improvement next season.

As the season comes to an end and the weather sends all soccer players inside, the Spartans can look back and be proud of their accomplishments. The team had a winning record on the road and beat three regionally ranked teams. Beyond that their level of play improved greatly as their games were all well fought close matches. “We did a lot of very good things this year,” Bianco said, “We did all of this with the youngest and smallest roster in the league.”

Youngest is the word which stands out the most, but there is an upside to their youth and inexperience for the future of Case Western soccer. With almost all of the team returning for next season, there are high hopes for the Spartans. “Our future is bright,” Bianco said.