Men’s soccer charges into conference play with victory

Webster University men's soccer team
Webster University junior midfielder Jimmy Benoist (22) battles an Elmhurst College player for the ball on Sept. 18 at the Soccer Park. Webster and Elmhurst tied 0-0 after playing 90 minutes and two 10-minute overtime periods. PHOTO BY MAX BOUVATTE

The Webster University men’s soccer team played three games this past week, highlighted by a victory in the squad’s first St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match. The Gorloks’ record stands at 3-4-1 (1-0 SLIAC).

Sophomore midfielder Carlos Espinosa said the 2-1 conference win against Spalding University, which came on Sept. 17 in Louisville, Ky., gets the team on the right track.

“It’s huge. Three points gets us going,” Espinosa said. “We wanted to beat them. We got that first win out of the way, and we can continue to build on that.”

The week started out gloomy for the Gorloks, though. In a rain-drench match on Sept. 14 against the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Fightin’ Engineers, Webster lost 6-1. Webster fell behind 4-0 at halftime in the road game at Terre Haute, Ind., and couldn’t dig out of the hole.

Junior defender Mickey Dennis scored the lone Gorlok goal, which was also the first goal of Dennis’ career, during the second half on a penalty kick.

Coach Marty Todt said the team tried to use that game as a learning experience.

“We had a couple tough one-goal losses. Up until that game we had never lost a game by more than a goal,” Todt said. “What they did was they took that experience and moved it into a positive rather than a negative.”

The Gorloks bounced back after the loss to Rose-Hulman by beating Spalding. After a scoreless first half, Spalding took a 1-0 lead nine minutes into the second half.

Webster sophomore forward Pat McCaffery scored his team-leading third goal of the season to get Webster on the board. In the 25th minute of the second half, Espinosa scored his first goal of the season to put Webster on top for good.

“We started out keeping possession of the ball. Once they scored, we were down a goal, but we kept our heads up and went after them,” Espinosa said. “We played hard, and I think that was our best game of the season. It came at the right time.”

As the team left Kentucky with three conference points, Todt said the victory helps give Webster an early edge within the tight SLIAC.

“The parity in our conference is unbelievable,” Todt said. “From No. 1 down to No. 6 or 7, it is so tight. Everything we do is total preparation for our conference games. Every point you get is huge, whether it’s three for the win or one for the tie. Mentally, it puts them on the right path again.”

After playing six straight road games in 15 days, Webster finally returned home on Sept. 18 to take on Elmhurst College at the Soccer Park. Rain fell from kickoff until the end of the game — stopping only for a brief period at halftime — as Webster battled Elmhurst to a 0-0 tie.

The teams played the full two halves and two 10-minute overtime periods, but neither team managed to score a goal. Todt said the way the men’s soccer team fought during the game was unbelievable.

“What I see is 26 guys fighting their ever-loving tails off for each other, and that’s what we talked about from the beginning,” Todt said. “We’re not really going to succeed or go anywhere if we’re not sincerely fighting for each other. The focus is to leave it all out on the field. If 26 guys do that, win or lose, that’s success.”

Todt said the team needs to work on two things as they prepare for their next conference match against Eureka College on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. at the Soccer Park.

“Fitness is No. 1, and No. 2 is that ability to finish when we have those opportunities,” Todt said. “It’s really frustrating. We’ve had a couple games where we create really nice opportunities to score goals and we don’t finish. That changes the complexity of a game so much.”

The men’s soccer team’s next game is a road contest against Lindenwood University-Belleville on Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. in Belleville, Ill.  The Gorloks will then take on Eureka as they try to get to 2-0 in SLIAC play.

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