Men’s soccer displays resilience in season finale

Newswire photo by Desmond Fischer | The men’s soccer team battled injuries throughout the season but made a strong push to the Big East tournament. The Musketeers fell short against Marquette despite taking the game into penalty kicks.

Overcoming injuries is always a difficult task, but for the men’s soccer team this season, it proved too much in the end.

While several key players, like junior forward Derrick Otim and graduate student defenseman Matt Nance returned to the lineup late in the year, the bumps the Musketeers had encountered along the way in getting to that point put them too far behind the 8-ball.

Xavier closed out the season strong and snapped a five- match losing streak by winning its final two matches in the regular season.

However, the No. 5 seeded Musketeers saw their 2018 campaign come to a heartbreaking conclusion during the ninth round of penalty kicks in the opening game of the Big East Tournament against No. 4 seeded Marquette last Saturday night.

With Xavier down 2-1 to the Golden Eagles late in the match and the season on the line, forward Samson Sergi tallied his fourth goal of the week in the 84th minute.

The teams battled through two scoreless, golden goal overtime periods before the match went to a shootout.

Senior goalkeeper Colin Hanley, who was called on late in the season after starting goalkeeper Zach Nelson injured himself in pregame warmups, stood in net.

“Getting an equalizer late, we believed in each other that we were going to get the job done. Colin is great at PK’s, and we knew he was going to save a few,” Sergi said.

Marquette did indeed fail to convert two of its attempts. However, in the ninth round, Xavier missed its second straight shot, and Marquette took advantage of the opportunity, scoring the game winner and moving on to the next round.

For the Musketeers, it was a sudden, brutal ending to a very turbulent few months.

“We had a lot of belief in one another from everything we’ve been through all season,” Sergi said. “Our team endured a lot of adversity, and we were very confident going into the tournament with some wins under our belt.”

This was the sixth straight time Xavier has qualified for the six-team tournament, as it has made an appearance every year since joining the conference.

After losing five straight matches, Xavier, who was ranked as high as No. 18 nationally by one outlet near the end of September, won its final two games and netted five goals in its regular season finale against Butler prior to Saturday’s match.

Marquette was able to rally for two goals after Otim put the Musketeers on the board first.

The equalizer seemingly energized the Xavier squad, but the team couldn’t ride the wave of momentum enough to cap it off with a game-winning goal. With the loss, Xavier’s season saw its conclusion.

Sergi, who was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week for the last week of the regular season, summed it all up with this: “I love every player on the team. All of the adversity we suffered this season made us so tight as a team, really emphasizing our family culture. I just wish we had more to show for it down the stretch.”

By: Paul Fritschner | Staff Writer