Men’s soccer starts strong

David Chang, Staff Reporter

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The Case Western Reserve University men’s soccer team spent their Labor Day weekend picking up wins. They accumulated a 1-0 victory against Heidelberg University. They also played a close 1-1 double-overtime game against the University of Mount Union. 

The Spartans hope to repeat last year’s success. They reached the quarterfinals in the National Collegiate Academic Association Division III championships. The team currently holds the seventh overall spot on the United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division III Top-25 Preseason poll, the highest-ranking the program has ever seen. The team is led by fourth-year All-UAA First Team selections forward Zachary Senft, midfielder Garrett Winter and defender Nathan Ekberg. Second-year goalie Charlie Fink, who had a .758 save percentage in his rookie campaign, will anchor the Spartan’s defense this season with another year under his belt.

CWRU started the season in their unique blitzing and scrappy fashion, maintaining ball control on the opponent’s side of the field. Third-year midfielder Conner Weber took two corner kicks, but Eckberg’s headers were either too wide or too short. The Spartans took a barrage of five shots in a four-minute span, with the opposing goalie saving all but one. The goal was scored when third-year Seldon Magruder rushed down the right side of the field before stopping at the 10-yard line and sinking it to the top left corner of the goal. 

The first goal of the season was the sole goal in the opening half. After the goal, coach Brandon Bianco substituted the bench in to close out the first half. The Spartans returned to their attacking form in the second half, but the opposing goalie brought his A-game as well, saving three shots in the first three minutes. Because the Spartans spent a majority of the time on the offensive side, Heidelberg had fewer opportunities to score, and rushed shots. The Spartans took an insane 27 shots and 16 corner kicks during the game.

Against Mount Union, the pace of the game was more back and forth, with a lot of chippy defense played by both sides. The Spartans still managed to set up corner kicks that were taken by Weber. However, Mount Union’s defense was able to deflect the passes. The opposing goalie was also able to save two shots by Senft and Magruder in the first ten minutes of the game. At the thirty-minute mark, Mount Union managed to chip in a long shot from thirty yards that just tipped off Fink’s hands.

Play remained scrappy heading into the second half, with both sides not allowing the other to have total possession over the ball. The Spartans continued to be aggressive, which climaxed in the 61st minute when first-year Rafael Perez headed the ball through the goalie’s hands. The goal was a team effort. Eckberg’s large frame drew the attention of the defense, allowing Perez to get in front of his man and receive Weber’s pass. The team celebrated Perez’s first career goal by embracing him. In overtime and double overtime, the Spartans had a good look with a Magruder and Eckberg header, but fell short. Both teams accumulated a total of 31 fouls, and Mount Union received four yellow cards. Fourth-year Brian Woo led the defense, which was able to fend off the Purple Raiders, allowing only nine shots the whole game.

The Spartans will play their first away game against Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.