BY ANDREW KADA
This past weekend, the University of Mary Washington men’s soccer team opened their season as victors in a pair of wins over Elizabethtown College on Saturday and Gettysburg College on Sunday in the UMW Soccer Classic. The men’s team demonstrated their skill at the Battleground Sports Complex in front of a substantial crowd of Eagle supporters.
Despite this weekend being host to the Men’s Soccer team’s first games, their efforts began much earlier in the summer with Coach Roy Gordon’s direction of summer workout plans. In addition to Gordon, the team’s only senior captain, Tommy DiNuzzo, exercised his leadership.
“Tommy organized some of his fellow returning athletes for some informal practices before returning to school and preseason,” Coach Gordon said.
Through ten days of pre-season and comprehensive tryouts, a new group of freshmen and transfers were brought aboard the team’s ranks. Junior goalkeeper Emmett Rutkowski believes that this year’s team is likely one of the strongest in past years.
“With graduating only three seniors and so many that tried out, a very skilled group was selected. This kind of depth will reflect in our performances as well as already has,” he said.
According to DiNuzzo, Saturday the men were faced with unfavorable conditions, yet nothing that the team wasn’t able to endure.
“The field was a little beat up because a game had just been played on it and it had rained the day before. It was also a very hot day and it was obvious that Elizabethtown became tired out because of it,” Dinuzzo said. “We got stronger as the game went on and we should have put the game away earlier than we did.”
Several shots were made during regulation but none of which proved full successes. One shot however was scored by sophomore Tony Rodriguez, but was called back because of a foul that DiNuzzo in particular didn’t feel was justified.
“It was not a good call and Tony did well to win the ball and finish it. The goal should have counted,” he said.
In the end, the victory shot was produced two minutes into the first overtime by a progression of touches. The play began with a corner kick from junior Michael Johnson and ended on a strike off junior Matt Lawrey’s foot when it was sent into the back of the net, securing the Eagle 1-0 victory.
Prior to the game, the two teams had few very encounters as Elizabethtown is a top-25 team in the nation, as well as a two-time national champion. The Eagle men knew that the game would be a tough match. According to Rutkowski the game got physical as time ran out.
“There seemed to be a hostility growing where more fouls were being made by their team and the referees weren’t calling a tight game,” he said.
All in all, the team was extremely happy with their playing and capture of the UMW Classic Title. Meanwhile, some of the newest additions to the team, freshmen Patch Owen, Will Gallop, and Bram Sims were put to the test in starting positions and thrived.
“We have already begun to rely on them,” Coach Gordon said.
Looking ahead to their season, the men face a challenging schedule. With games against top national and regional teams like Emory College, Christopher Newport University, Virginia Wesleyan and Roanoke, they certainly have their work cut out for them. However, despite the schedule the team moves forward from this weekend undefeated and confident.
UMW’s next home game is against the strong Christopher Newport University on Saturday, Sept. 20.