In a loss against the University of Dallas on Friday, Sept. 15, Trinity men’s soccer fell to the Crusaders and ended a 17 year streak of home game wins. The game ended in double overtime with a moment that seemed to play in slow motion. As Trinity’s sophomore goalkeeper Blake Lieberman sprang forward from the box to confront the player running toward him, University of Dallas forward Chima Ogueri sent the ball spinning from a controlled toe tap sliding straight into the open goal.
The air was mixed with both sounds and silence. The shocked players from the University of Dallas rushed onto the field. The triumphant Crusaders, the unlikely victors, awed by their sudden death win, ripped their shirts off in jubilation, while the Tigers fell to the ground. The Trinity crowd, many of whom were still on their feet, stood silently as the spectators from Dallas, including their women’s team who had just fallen 6-0, cheered with excitement.
Let’s rewind to the start of the game to understand how the loss happened and how the Tigers responded.
The game began with a strong performance by the Tigers and within three minutes, first-year midfielder Quentin Van Der Lee scored Trinity’s first goal of the night. In the seventh minute of play, after a foul from Trinity, the University of Dallas turned a corner kick into a goal to match the score of the formidable Tigers. The goal left the Trinity bench silent as the players on the field resolved to take back the lead.
“For us, it was a bit of a shock and we just knew we had to bounce back from it. We knew we were a stronger team and we could fight and get through it,” said senior defender Daylon Gordon. “It was just kind of a defensive lapse, a mistake on our part. It wasn’t anything that we freaked out about at that point but we knew we needed to pick it up.”
Thirty-seven minutes into the first half, UTD’s Ogueri headed the ball towards the back post, bringing the score to 2-1 in the Crusaders’ favor.
With Trinity’s second goal, scored by junior midfielder Christian Sakshaug in the 85th minute, the game was cemented as a tie at the end of regulation. With this draw, both teams prepared to go into a tense round of overtime. What followed was an aggressive physical battle for a goal, that ended in a third goal for Dallas by Ogueri, bringing a Trinity loss to Paul McGinlay Soccer Field.
The victory, explained Leiberman, can be credited not only to a defensive lapse on the part of the Trinity team, but also to Ogueri’s performance.
“A lot of what they did was they packed eight players inside their box and played with a block of eight and then just tried to counterattack,” Lieberman said. “They had a pacey forward who did well, scored two goals for them. So really two of their three goals came off of counterattacks and their first goal was off of a free kick, dropped in the box, didn’t get away in time and ended up in the back of the net.”
After the events of Friday’s game, the Tigers resolved themselves to bring home a victory on Sunday, as they faced off against Colorado College.
Colorado brought forth a strong offensive attack, but a few switches in the Tigers’ playing pattern opened up more chances for success.
By switching Sakshaug to play forward, head coach Paul McGinlay created more offensive opportunities for the Tigers. In the first 15 minutes, it was a cross from Sakshaug to Gordon that allowed Hallenberger to score.
Trinity continued to press throughout the second half, and another assist from Gordon, this time finding Sakshaug, bring the score to 2-0 in the 66th minute. Despite a strong performance from Colorado College, Trinity ended the game in a shutout.
This past Friday, Sept. 22, conference play continued for the Tigers, who first faced off against the Texas Lutheran University Bulldogs. The Bulldogs and the Tigers both played a fearsome first half, in which neither scored. The Tigers returned from their halftime talk ready to play.
As the second half commenced, junior forward Austin Michaelis earned his first hat trick in 13 minutes by scoring 3 goals. Another goal from Sakshaug as well as one from Van Der Lee gave the Tigers another big shutout.
The winning weekend continued on the 24th with a game against the Southwestern Pirates. Michaelis continued to shine, scoring one goal in each half, ending in a 2-0 shutout. It also made Michaelis the lead goal-scoring Tiger.
The defense played an important role as well, not allowing the Pirates to score.
“The first defensive player will press and the others will cover behind him, and that’s a big reason why we’ve been so good on defense, cause we’re all on the same page and we know that defense wins championships,” said sophomore defensive midfielder Brady Johnston.
Despite the past three victories for the Tigers, the players think it is important to look back at the loss at home to see what they can take away from the unprecedented loss.
“I guess it’s become a norm to expect Trinity to win every game,” Johnston said.
For Hallenberger, the events represented a chance to learn.
“Remember it for the learning experience, but move on. We knew what we had to do on Sunday morning and we went out and got it done,” Hallenberger said.
Leiberman thought there was little reason to focus on the events of Friday night.
“It was more of a “˜Hey, Friday happened and now we’re moving onto Sunday. They’re a good team and we just need to go out there and make the most of the chances we’re given” Lieberman said.
The men of Trinity soccer don’t seem too shaken by the loss, which serves as a reminder that anyone can suffer an upset. Still, as Trinity advances forward in the conference, they prove with each game that they are more than ready to match and do better than their successes from years passed.
“Going into the game I always think we are the stronger team,” Lieberman said. “I trust every single one of those guys on the field and every one of the guys on the bench. We definitely have a great program.”
The Tigers head to Centenary College this Friday, Sept. 29, to play the Gents at 8 p.m.