MEN’s SOCCER: One Up, one down

Joanie Baker

Western soccer moms from all over the country filled the stands Sunday, hoping their lucky silver soccer charms would pull another win for their sons against Western Michigan.

But instead, in the second half, luck showed up in the back of Western’s net as Western Michigan rolled in a surprising, game-winning goal to take home the WKU Invitational tournament, 3-2.

Western finished second in the four-team tournament after beating Xavier Friday. Scott DeGaris, Richard Mupfudze and Ron Plute made the all-tournament team.

In the second game of the tournament, Western came out hot against Xavier, outshooting the Musketeers 10-2 in the first half. The game remained scoreless until Western’s Jacob Isenhour put back his own rebound, giving his team the lead going into halftime.

Mupfudze put on an impressive performance while scoring the second goal to cap the win.

In the 84th minute, he broke away down the field to go one-on-one with Xavier’s goalie. Before putting the ball through the posts, he shook the goalie, who fell flat on his stomach.

That same defense that shutout Xavier kept Western Michigan scoreless for the first 15 minutes of play in round two of the tournament Sunday. After his first goal, Michael John-Williams could not be stopped. He finished with all three of the Bronco’s goals.

But the first half was Western’s game offensively. One minute after John-Williams took the lead with the first goal, Plute deflected a free kick past the goalkeeper to tie the game. Brandon Bailey scored soon after, snatching a lead Western would hold into halftime.

But Western couldn’t contain John-Williams, and goalkeeper Wade Roepke was left vulnerable by a soft defense. The last goal was especially upsetting.

“We got beat on the outside, and the guy came down to take me one-one-one,” Roepke said. “I made the initial save, but our backside wasn’t covered. No one was there.”

Coach David Holmes said he was impressed with the team’s play this weekend. He said Western Michigan had more experience, having already played four games.

Holmes said he has confidence that at this stage in the season, the appropriate changes can be made for Western (1-3) to have a “dependable team” in time for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

“The problems that we’ve got are correctable problems,” Holmes said. “We just gave up some goofy goals, but those can be prevented with practice.”

Both Mupfudze and Roepke said the team could improve on marking. But Roepke has his own goal for the next game.

“My goal is no goals,” Roepke said. “We’re learning each other more as we play, but it all comes down fixing the little things.”

The team will get the opportunity to show its improvement Friday when it hosts Kentucky Wesleyan at 7 p.m.

Reach Joanie Baker at [email protected]