Strong start for men’s soccer to begin Higgins era

By Spencer Tracy, Staff Writer

Xavier men’s soccer opened the 2022 season with a 1-0 win in a defensive dog fight against University of Virginia.

Despite treading above water offensively the entire first half, the Musketeers dominated defensively against Virginia, to the tune of zero shots or corner kicks allowed. Xavier’s offense came alive forcing a couple of great opportunities but still were unable to capitalize.  

Xavier’s defensive intensity was cranked up a notch after halftime, continuing to keep the ball out of the back net; however, switching to a more physical strategy resulted in three yellow cards for the Musketeers. However, junior redshirt goalkeeper Cole Jensen accepted the offensive challenge from Virginia and provided three saves, keeping Xavier in the game as they headed into halftime.

The Musketeers  finally made their presence felt in the 85 minute, when graduate student Kendall Allen served one up for sophomore midfielder Brandon Osterholt, leaving enough room for the Musketeers’ defense to shut down the Cavaliers in the final five minutes of the game and get their first win of the season. 

Three total shots on goal are not going to win you enough games, especially in conference play, but this match showed Xavier has a defense capable of taking over matches throughout the remainder of the season. 

Defense was Xavier’s strong-suit once again on Sunday, finishing the first half against the Eastern Illinois Panthers having yielded zero goals. It was clear Head Coach John Higgins made some adjustments heading into the second half, as all there was to watch in the first was the Musketeer offense toe tapping around the Panthers’ defense. The Musketeers’ defense surrendered only two shots on goal the entire first half. However, all of the defensive success was overshadowed by the frustration of missed opportunities on offense, in large part thanks to some remarkable diving stops by Panther goalkeeper Chad Smith, a Cincinnati native. Xavier created eight shots and aired out seven corner kicks, heading into halftime 0-0. 

Yet again, Higgins makes some key changes during halftime. These adjustments presented themselves beautifully when forward graduate student Alejandro Steinwascher centered a perfect pass, allowing freshman forward Nicolas Hald Willumsen to effortlessly crush it into the back net not even two minutes into the second half. 

All the momentum went to Xavier after grabbing a 1-0 lead. The Panthers got sloppy, picking up their second yellow card of the game in addition to missing a grand offensive breakaway opportunity after a defensive miscommunication by Xaviers’ defense.

Although the Panthers would only create one shot every ten minutes, Xavier’s defense surrendered its first goal of the season in the 70th minute. Xavier got desperate down the stretch, forcing some tough shots outside the box, but still left empty handed once the final buzzer sounded with a final score of 1-1. 

Musketeer fans, players and coaches left with a tie on the scoreboard, but with the frustrating feeling of a loss after dominating the Panthers on the field the entire game. Xavier men’s soccer will be back in action this Thursday, Sept. 1, at 8:00 p.m. as they hit the road to take on the Memphis Tigers.