Men’s soccer earns share of UAA title
The No. 18 Washington University men’s soccer team wrapped up its regular season by earning a share of the University Athletic Association Championship on Saturday.
The Bears took the title with a 2-0 win against the University of Chicago. Case Western Reserve University took home the other half of the conference championship and the automatic NCAA tournament bid associated with it because of a 2-1 victory over Wash. U. on Oct. 30.
“We had most of our players back from injury, so that helped,” head coach Joe Clarke said. “We came with the mindset knowing we had to win, and Chicago is a good team despite what their record says.”
Starting goalie Jonathan Jebson returned to the lineup after leaving the previous game because of injury; midfielders Michael Flowers and Jeremy Kirkwood also returned from injuries. All three played important roles in the victory.
“[Jonathan Jebson] made a lot of saves,” Clarke said. “[Sophomore] Michael [McCarthy] did a great job in his place last game, but [Jebson] is a special goalie.”
Jebson, a sophomore, made four saves on Saturday, recording his eighth shutout in the process and bringing his goals against average down to 0.56. Wash. U. was second in the UAA with just 13 goals allowed.
“We knew we needed to win coming into the game,” Jebson said. “We were rattled the week before with two losses, but we only have three losses on the season, so we knew we just needed to play our game.”
Kirkwood scored the game’s first and winning goal in the 39th minute. Despite a tight angle, he managed to beat the keeper to the upper corner. Senior Cody Costakis was credited with the assist. It was Kirkwood’s fifth goal of the season and Costakis’ eighth assist, giving him the team lead with 18 points.
Freshman Pay Estakhri scored the game’s second and final goal in the 72nd minute, clinching the victory. Costakis was involved again with a long ball that beat the Chicago defense. This time Brian Wright was credited with the assist. It was Estakhri’s second goal of the season.
“I’ve been trying to find time for Pay [Estakhri] to play this season,” Clarke said. “He’s gotten a lot of time due to injuries, and he’s done really well during the time he’s been on the field.”
Despite being outshot 16-12, Wash. U. was able to control the ball and the tempo, leading Chicago in corner kicks 7-1. Wash. U. has scored a number of goals off corner kicks this season, and Clarke said corners were something they did rehearse a lot in practice.
“We won because we played hard and worked really hard,” Clarke said. “Chicago put a lot of pressure on us, but we managed to control the flow of the game.”
The NCAA tournament starts on Nov. 10, and the seeding will be released later today. It is a 60-team single-elimination tournament. The top four seeds receive first-round byes.
“We want to build off the Chicago game and ignore the losses. Our first tournament game is huge,” Jebson said. “Definitely we need to close up the spaces, stop fouling and block shots. It’s all about putting your body on the line and seeing who will sacrifice for the win.
“We want to prove to the country how good we are.”