MEN’S SOCCER: Weekend critical for Tops

Danny Schoenbaechler

Western’s men’s soccer team has its back against the wall this weekend.

The Hilltoppers will hit the road in dire need of a victory. They have lost their first four Missouri Valley Conference games, and only eight of the 10 conference teams qualify for the conference tournament.

Western (6-7-1, 0-4) has lost two of the four games in the closing seconds – a 1-0 defeat to No. 10 Bradley and a 2-1 overtime heartbreaker to No. 21 Creighton.

This weekend the Toppers will play a ranked opponent for the third straight weekend. They travel to play No. 6 Southern Methodist on Friday. SMU is the defending conference champion.

“This is going to be a big weekend for us,” Western coach David Holmes said.

With only five games left on the slate, Western needs to make a move up the ranks immediately. It won’t be easy.

Sunday’s game is at Tulsa, which is unranked this week, but it is the only team to beat No. 1-ranked Stanford this season.

“We have been playing some really good teams,” freshman defender Clay McMillan said. “I think we are confident that we can win this weekend.”

Western began this season by winning its first four games but have fallen on hard times since.

Over the past several seasons, Western has struggled with its offense. This season, however, the offense has improved thanks to an excellent freshman class.

The revamped offense has already scored more goals than last season. But the problem has been inconsistency.

In the past two weeks, Western has almost beaten or tied two top 25 teams. But in the other two games during that span they have lost 5-1 and 3-1 to much lesser opponents.

“This is a very tough conference,” Holmes said. “Our upperclassmen have really done a good job keeping the team together.”

Now, to get back in the conference race, they will need an impressive showing this weekend. They will need the youngsters to play well against an SMU team that has only allowed three goals in its past six games.

“I think that we can pick up a win this weekend,” Holmes said. “We just need to put together four good halves.”

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]