MEN’S SOCCER: Two losses put postseason in doubt

Danny Schoenbaechler

For the second time in six days, Western was beaten by a top 25 team in the final seconds of the game.

The men’s soccer team lost 2-1 in overtime to No. 21 Creighton on Friday night in Omaha, Neb.

Instead of picking up a huge win, Western continued to slide. The Hilltoppers then dropped Sunday’s match against Drake, and have now lost their first four Missouri Valley Conference games, falling below the .500 mark overall for the first time this year.

Western (6-7-1, 0-4) traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, and lost 3-1 at Drake.

“We played three good halves,” Western coach David Holmes said. “Except for the second half against Drake, we played very well. I wasn’t displeased with the effort in either game.”

The Toppers started the season 4-0, but have now dropped five of their last six.

It’s a familiar story for the veterans on the team. The Toppers were 4-0 last season as well, but went 7-10 for the year including 2-6 in the conference.

In Friday’s game Western played highly regarded Creighton (7-2-2, 2-0-1) into an extra session, but the Blue Jays’ All-American Mike Tranchilla made them pay.

Tranchilla scored his second goal of the game in the 97th minute for the win. Tranchilla’s first goal came in the 24th minute on a penalty kick.

“We didn’t do as well against Tranchilla as I would have liked,” Holmes said. “He is a very dangerous player.”

Western responded just before intermission on a penalty kick of its own, by senior midfielder Ben Buerger.

Buerger put the shot into the right side of the net for his fourth goal of the season. The teams remained deadlocked until the game winner.

“We should have gotten out of there with a tie. But we didn’t,” Holmes said.

Freshman defender Clay McMillan said the Toppers struggled early, but they were able to rebound.

“They were kind of pounding us early,” he said. “But then we opened it up and played well. I think that is the best team we have played so far.”

In Sunday’s game, the Toppers came out aggressively, looking to score early. They did.

Freshman midfielder Brandon Bailey took a pass from junior defender Ron Plute and scored his third goal of the season to give Western an early 1-0 edge.

It was the first time in five games that Western scored first.

The Bulldogs responded in the 36th minute to draw even at the half.

Drake (6-4-1, 2-0-1) then scored two second-half goals, to which Western had no response. The Toppers fell 3-1.

“That really was the only bad half we played all weekend,” Holmes said.

The Toppers hit the road again this weekend for two more grueling road games.

Friday’s match up is against No. 6 Southern Methodist. Western will then travel to Tulsa Sunday. Tulsa, unranked this week, is the only team this season to beat No. 1 Stanford.

“I predicted we would beat one of these top 25 teams,” Holmes said. “We still have a chance to do that this weekend.”

McMillan said he thinks the squad is ready to win a big game. And they must, with another winless conference weekend putting postseason play in serious doubt.

“We are confident, and we definitely think that we can beat both of these teams this weekend,” McMillan said.

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]