On Oct. 25, the Webster University men’s soccer team had just been shut out for seventh time this season in a 1-0 home loss to Westminster College. Senior goalie Alex Cupp was serving a one-game suspension for receiving a red card. The Gorloks were in fifth place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The season was all but lost. Webster needed some outside help just to qualify for the SLIAC tournament.
What a difference a week makes.
In an unlikely scenario, the Gorloks stunned No. 1 seed Westminster 1-0 in the first round of the SLIAC tournament on the Blue Jays’ home field on Nov. 2.
A few days earlier, on the last day of the regular season, the Gorloks needed Principia College to lose or tie to Fontbonne University, and Webster had to defeat Blackburn College to make it into the tournament. Fontbonne won in overtime and the Gorloks took down Blackburn. Webster’s season wasn’t finished yet.
“Everyone worked together to get this turned around,” junior striker Clint Carder said. “We are developing really well now.”
Carder, who was coming off his second SLIAC Offensive Soccer Player of the Week award for 2011, scored his team-leading seventh goal of the year against Westminster, and that proved to be the difference.
“(Freshman) Jeff Wallner cut to the ball and got it back to me; it was a great pass,” Carder said. “I was able to get off a good shot and it deflected in.”
Junior Agustin Villalba started his second straight game at center midfield. Villalba was aggressive and pushed the balled up the field to create several scoring opportunities.
“The midfield has stepped up to put pressure up top,” Carder said. “Villalba has been solid in the middle.”
Westminster had its best scoring chance in the second half, as a Blue Jays’ goal was disallowed because of a foul. Cupp was pushed down by a Westminster player while going for the ball, and the referee made the crucial call.
The Cupp-led defense, which has been stellar all season, once again came up big. Cupp, who was coming off his third SLIAC Defensive Soccer Player of the Week award for 2011, picked up his fourth shutout of the season. Cupp said the credit should be given to his defenders, including juniors Mickey Dennis and Josh Sellmeyer, and freshman Brelon Buckner.
“Mickey, Josh, Brelon and a rotating cast of left wings on defense was the key to the win,” Cupp said. “Mickey made a couple of tackles on plays where he saved us.”
The upset win catapults the Gorloks into the SLIAC championship game at Greenville College on Nov. 5. Greenville, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, beat Fontbonne 1-0 in overtime in the other semifinal.
The last time Greenville played Webster was on Oct. 19, and the Panthers won that battle 1-0. The Gorloks dominated the action, but couldn’t take advantage of their scoring opportunities, including 10 corner kicks.
“We are excited about the opportunity,” Carder said. “This is a game we can win. It’s our time now.”