Men’s soccer tops Yellowjackets with late free kick

| Senior Sports Editor

As junior Sean Connors lined himself up at the 27-yard line, his teammates joined the wall between the ball and the goal. So far, the game had been a stalemate, and the 78th minute free kick provided a golden opportunity for the men’s soccer team to pull away from University of Rochester with a victory. Connors took half a step back before charging forward, his right leg soon flying out from under him as he launched the ball toward the goalkeeper in the orange penny.

The ball arced past the wall as the Washington University players screened the Rochester goalkeeper, preventing him from getting eyes on the ball. It took a short hop at the goal line before skittering past the keeper, whose initial move had been in the wrong direction. The keeper fell to his knees in despair. His head remained down, eyes on the turf, as the Bears chased after Connors, celebrating the goal.

Connors’ free kick goal held up and the Bears beat the Yellowjackets, 1-0, to improve to 6-2-1 on the season and 1-0 in University Athletic Association play. “We largely took away what Rochester does—they play a very organized, territorial game and we made that difficult for them,” head coach Joe Clarke said. “It was a good, solid performance for us.”

The Connors’ free kick, one of 11 shots the Bears had on the day (five of which were on goal), came after the referees gave Rochester’s Noe Reyes a yellow card. “He hit a good, hard shot, and I don’t think the goalkeeper saw the ball until it had gone past the wall,” Clarke said.

Wash. U. limited Rochester to just a single shot on goal and prevented the Yellowjackets from getting any corner kicks (the Bears themselves had five). This absence of corner kicks was a major key for the Bears. “Rochester is a dangerous team. A lot of their game is based on winning restarts, but they had no corner kicks in the game, so territorially they weren’t getting the spaces they wanted to get,” he said. “We had a very good game defensively and I thought that our wing backs, Sergio [Rivas] and Shiv [Lamba] were outstanding.”

The Bears’ goalkeeper, senior Connor Mathes, was another key to the Red and Green’s defensive shutdown ability. In the 36th minute, he made a diving stop after a Rochester forward chipped a shot near the post, sliding seamlessly to his left and into the path of the ball.

Sophomore Matt Martin had been the starter for the team’s first seven games, but Mathes has impressed in recent practices and has started the last two, including Sunday’s match against Rochester and the Bears’ Sept. 30 game against Greenville University. “Connor has been battling very hard. He had quite a few outstanding practices in a row and that led into the last two games where he ended up being the player that was playing,” Clarke said. “I don’t want anybody to get complacent—I’m not saying that Matt got complacent at all—but all players need to put out and continue to perform, whether it is practice or it is a game.”

The Bears will look to build on their three-game winning streak next week in their second UAA matchup of the year Saturday at 1:30pm in Atlanta against Emory University.

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