Men’s soccer routs Principia, draws with Aurora in weekend split

| Contributing Reporter

Men’s soccer in action in last week. (Lakshmi Mulgund | Student Life)

The Washington University men’s soccer team (2-1-1) continued their out-of-conference season with mixed results, convincingly defeating Principia College on Thursday evening and drawing with Aurora University on Sunday afternoon. While the Bears exploded for five goals against Principia, WashU’s failure to convert opportunities and controversial penalties hindered their chance to sweep their weekend series. 

After failing to score against Illinois Wesleyan last Friday, WashU desperately needed to find more opportunities on the attack. They had no shortage of chances Thursday night against Principia, thrashing the Panthers 5-0. Graduate student Christopher Alwang opened the scoring in the 21st minute with his first collegiate goal. The Bears extended their lead in the 41st minute as freshman Ethan Wirtschafter found the back of the net for his first WashU goal. Wirtschafter found himself at the center of the action again just a few moments later. After a Principia midfielder fouled the Bears’ forward, he was sent off after receiving a second yellow card, just moments before the end of the first half. 

WashU took the upper hand of the one-man advantage in the second half, exploding for three goals. Forward senior John Daniels, sophomore Peter Radovich, and junior Joseph Hipskind all scored for the Bears, marking the first goals of the season for Radovich and Hipskind. A strong performance from the Bears’ defense made it an actionless evening for the WashU keepers – Principia did not record a shot on goal. The Bears’ victory Thursday continued a streak of domination of Principia by WashU; in their last seven matches, WashU has outscored Principia 26-1. 

“We showed how well we can play as a team and how we can dominate a game,” Hipskind said. “If we can build on the better parts of the weekend, we will have a very dangerous team going forward.” 

WashU continued their hot start on Sunday against Aurora, with Hipskind’s slick right-footed shot beating the Spartans’ keeper in the third minute. Despite an offensive onslaught from WashU – the Bears peppering 13 shots on the Aurora netminder in the first 45 – the two teams were locked even at the end of the first half.

The second half was not without its controversy. In the 60th minute, senior midfielder Owen Culver received a warning from the referee for time-wasting. The Bears would go on to be awarded a penalty kick in the 63rd minute, but the referee would not allow the long-time penalty taker Culver to take the shot. This was no issue for sophomore midfielder Zach Susee, who smoothly converted the penalty for his first goal with WashU. The Bears held onto the lead until the 80th minute, when Aurora was awarded a controversial penalty. Midfielder Landon Green, who went down on the play, was called for a foul in the box himself by the linesman, leading to the game-tying goal for Aurora. A last-second free kick for Aurora – given after another questionable call – was stopped by a wall of WashU defenders, saving the game for the Bears and securing the 2-2 draw. 

Much of the team’s weekend success is thanks to their younger, less experienced players. After many key starters graduated last year, WashU has become increasingly reliant on their freshmen and sophomores. With goals this weekend from Susee, Radovich, and Wirtschafter, solid defensive performances by midfielder Colin Link and defender Nathan Szpak, and a stellar goalkeeping rotation of Owen Ross, Adam Mallalieu, and Cal L’Hommedieu, the Bears’ youth was on full display against Principia and Aurora. To Hipskind, a junior who has taken an active leadership role on the team, the Bears’ youth is one of their biggest strengths. 

“The sophomores have worked incredibly hard over the past year and it’s really shown on the field. And we haven’t seen the freshmen at their peak yet, since so many have been injured,” said Hipskind. “It’s awesome seeing the younger guys come in and improve their game in the way that they have.” 

Men’s soccer will travel to Decatur, Ill. on Saturday to face Millikin University (3-1).

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