MEN’S SOCCER: Perfect no more

Danny Schoenbaechler

Western’s men’s soccer team was off to a 4-0 start heading into the Birmingham Southern Fall Classic.

The Hilltoppers were confident and playing well.

Those attributes may not have changed, but their unblemished record did. The Toppers (4-1-1) faced two-goal deficits in the first half of both games and left Birmingham, Ala., Sunday night without a victory.

In Friday’s game, Western was up against Alabama-Birmingham (2-2), a perennial top-25 team that has been to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament the past two years.

A charged up Western squad was ready to play, but fell behind early on a goal just two minutes into the game. They didn’t recover and fell 3-2.

The Toppers answered the first goal when sophomore Scott DeGaris put away his first goal of the season six minutes later.

The next 20 minutes were deadlocked before UAB netted two goals in a six-minute period.

“We dug a little hole for ourselves,” Western coach David Holmes said. “A couple of their goals were preventable, but to their credit they put away some goals.”

Freshman Richard Mupfudze drew Western within one just before intermission with his second goal of the season.

Western, slightly outmatched, could get no closer.

“We played a team with a lot of attacking power and almost got the equalizer at the end of regulation,” Holmes said. “As far as maturity, they were a little bit ahead of us.”

Freshman Clay McMillan said the team could learn from the defeat.

“We really didn’t quit, and we took that loss as a learning experience,” he said.

In Sunday’s game, Western once again fell behind to Birmingham Southern (0-5-1) but were able to fight back to a 3-3 tie.

The scoreboard was blank for the first half hour, but then both of teams started scoring. The next six minutes saw four goals, and suddenly the Toppers were down 3-1.

Western pulled within one a minute before the half, when sophomore Edis Kavazovic scored the first goal of his career.

Then, in the second half, senior Ben Buerger hit a shot in the 55th minute for the equalizer.

Sophomore defender Brad Benz said that he could tell the Toppers’ weekend competition was at a different level than the first four teams Western played.

“The teams we have played haven’t made us pay for our mistakes and these teams did,” Benz said. “This will really help us in the long run, because we can’t make mistakes in the conference.”

BEGINITAL Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]