By: Isabel Smith ~Staff Writer~
2014 was clearly a banner year for Xavier men’s soccer. The Musketeers performed well both on and off the field. The team’s notable athletic performance began with an exhibition game against the Indiana Hoosiers, the 2013 Big Ten champions, to precede the fall season.
XU found a win with a single goal in the 72nd minute of play. This game foreshadowed a future win against the Hoosiers in the second round of the NCAA soccer tournament. After dropping the two opening games in regular season play, Xavier rebounded with wins against Bradley (4-2), Cornell (1- 0) and our crosstown rivals, the Cincinnati Bearcats (3-0). This year’s crosstown battle took place under the lights at the Xavier University Soccer Complex.
The 41st meeting between the two rivals drew 2,178 fans to break XU’s attendance record for a men’s soccer game. Impressive performances came from senior midfielder Garrett Halfhill, who captured two goals before the half, and from redshirt senior Will Walker, who scored the final goal for the Musketeers. Thanks to XU’s strong defense, the Bearcats couldn’t find the net and did not have a corner until the 79th minute. Xavier left the match with a third straight win against UC.
The Musketeers had other noteworthy plays, including a road game shutout against Bucknell (1-0), a victory against the Loyola Marymount (2-0) and a win over St. John’s to begin Big East play. Partway through conference action and while on an eightmatch unbeaten streak, Xavier checked into the NSCAA coaches poll at No. 16, earning much deserved recognition. XU continued to put forth a strong effort on the field and came into the Big East Championship as a two-seed.
XU moved past Georgetown to battle Providence for the title, but lost 2-1. Xavier entered the NCAA tournament ranked 14th in the team’s first tournament appearance since the 2012 season. The Musketeers hosted Monmouth University in the initial round, a first for the university.
It was junior midfielder Alex Risdale’s shot in the 103rd minute of play that proved golden for Xavier. The Musketeers met the No. 5 Hoosiers again in the second round of the tournament. XU made strides for its program with goals by Walker and freshman forward Matt Vasquenza to take down the Big Ten powerhouse. Xavier’s strides grew in size as the team headed into the third round of the NCAA tournament. The team fell to No. 12 Creighton 2-1, but the game marked XU’s deepest post-season run in program history.
The Musketeers closed the season ranked No. 13 in the NSCAA national poll, an adequate representation of the team’s effort and impressive performance this year. Off the field, Xavier held the highest grade point average of all private Division I universities with a 3.44 GPA.