Western’s men’s soccer team will close out a second consecutive disappointing season tomorrow in Nashville. They’ll try to finish on a high note against fellow Missouri Valley Conference cellar dweller, Vanderbilt.
The Hilltoppers are tied for last place in the conference with the Commodores.
Western (7-10-1, 1-7 MVC) will close out a season that featured a bright beginning but fizzled out once conference play began. A 4-0 start brought high aspirations, but the 3-10-1 slide ended any thoughts of a run at the conference championship.
After last season’s 7-10 record, the Toppers will try to hit the eight-win mark this season.
“We are disappointed,” senior midfielder Ben Buerger said. “But it will be my last game and that will also be exciting.”
Buerger will close out a Western career that spanned over five years.
“Ben has played great for us,” Western coach David Holmes said. “I’m sorry he has to go out this way.”
Holmes has commended Buerger all year for his ability to keep the team together and make believers of themselves. The Toppers will try to stay together for the finale.
“We will be ready for the Vanderbilt game,” Holmes said. “If anybody isn’t ready to play, it won’t be the team in red and white.”
Vanderbilt has had an even less successful campaign than the Toppers.
The Commodores are 3-14 overall and 1-7 in the conference. But Vanderbilt has always been a rivalry game, and Western will not be taking the Commodores lightly.
“We will be ready to play,” junior goalkeeper Daryl Sattler said. “Things haven’t gone our way, but we won’t be giving up.”
This season has been a mixture of close calls and inconsistency for the Toppers.
They have lost by one goal to three top-25 teams, but have lost some games by several goals to the league’s lesser squads.
“We are a young team, but we have matured as the season has gone on,” Holmes said.
Western has been starting five to six freshman each game. The youngsters began the season with some prolific scoring, but have struggled to find the net lately.
The Toppers have only seven goals in their eight conference games – compared to the 19 goals they gave up in those same eight games.
They’ll try to bandage their wounds for the offseason with a win in the closer.
“We’ve played hard, and we’ve played some good games,” Holmes said. “But we just haven’t come out on top. But being in the conference tournament the past four years was a great accomplishment.”
Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]