MEN’s SOCCER: Raindrops aren’t all Western remembers from tourney

Joanie Baker

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – Coach David Holmes wanted to take home a souvenir to mark not only his return to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, but being named Coach of the Year as well.

On a blustery, cold night near St. Louis last Friday, rain had come in sheets, but Holmes managed to hold on to one tiny raindrop in the corner of his eye.

But after the clock ran out and Western was on the bottom half of a 3-1 score against Southern Methodist in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament, Holmes forced a smile while reminiscing an outstanding season, and his raindrop rolled right down his cheek. Now he has his memories.

“They’re upset right now because they came out to win the game,” Holmes said. “But I’m extremely proud of the guys for the season they’ve had, especially coming back from a pretty discouraging start. It’s been a super year, and being one of the Final Four teams in this tournament says an awful lot about these guys.”

But the St. Louis winds just weren’t in favor of a Western victory. During the first half, the Hilltoppers played with the wind and rain to their backs. The rain only picked up its intensity during the half and started to blow in sleet-like sheets.

But after the half, the rain blew horizontally, right into Western’s eyes. The Mustangs jumped on the opportunity to use this to their advantage and scored two quick goals in six minutes.

Junior midfielder Scott DeGaris cut the deficit to one as he found the back of the net in the 62nd minute off a corner kick from junior midfielder Trey Alexander.

The Mustangs took 17 shots in the second half. But senior goalkeeper Daryl Sattler came out with 10 saves, including one where he hung like a puppet at the top of the goal, where he stretched just far enough to deflect the ball away from the top corner.

Both teams duked it out in the rain and mud, missing what on dry land would have been easy kicks.

Referee Rich Huber didn’t seem to mind the physical play, as one SMU player found his arms over senior Ron Plute’s back and around his neck.

But much can be said about a team who came out as underdogs, bounced back from a 2-5-1 start and made it to the final four.

En route to third place in the MVC, Western snagged a school record for shutouts, a Coach of the Year award and two all-conference honors awarded to Plute and sophomore Richard Mupfudze.

“It’s rough,” Sattler said. “I think it’s going to hit me soon that I won’t be putting on another Western jersey. Ever.”

So with a season full of accomplishments, Western has more to hold onto than just the raindrops.

Reach Joanie Baker at [email protected]