By Taylor Smith
The Ohio Wesleyan men’s soccer team returns nine of 11 starters and is off to a strong beginning while looking to improve on last season’s early exit in the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Jay Martin returns for his 37th season with the team, recording a 4-0 record to start this season. Two of those wins came Friday and Saturday, when the Battling Bishops hosted the Adidas Invitational at the Jay Martin Soccer Complex.
The Bishops defeated the Christopher Newport University Captains 3-2 in double overtime Friday. On Saturday they beat the Colorado College Tigers in a 6-2 rout.
The Bishops, who are ranked 10th nationally, entered halftime Friday night with a 0-0 tie despite outshooting the Captains 13-2 in the period.
CNU forward Jalon Brown put the Captains on the board first with an unassisted shot from the middle in the 53rd minute. OWU tied the game 10 minutes later with a header by sophomore midfielder Lonnie Barnes off a corner from senior midfielder Matt Shadoan.
Junior Colton Bloecher scored in the 70th minute to put the Bishops up 2-1, but CNU’s Keith Phelps tied the game 13 minutes later with a chip shot over OWU keeper junior Colin Beemiller.
After regulation ended in a draw, the teams played 18 minutes of sudden death overtime until junior back Drew Pang tapped in a goal off a corner kick from Shadoan.
After lifting his team 3-2 over CNU in double overtime, Pang said the experience was great as the team still looks to improve.
“I feel great; it’s my first (college) goal,” he said. “It’s more important that we got the win and rest up for tomorrow… (We) have high expectations so we’re just looking to get better.”
Senior back and team captain Jacob Eganhouse said the team needs to concentrate and command control of the game sooner than they did.
“We have to focus on one game at a time,” he said. “I think tonight (in the CNU game) we came out a little slow and waited for the game to come to us rather than take it, so tomorrow we have to refocus and start back from scratch, almost.”
On Saturday the Bishops once again entered halftime in a draw, with the score 2-2 this time after first half goals from Bloecher and sophomore midfielder Brian Schaefer.
OWU took the lead eight minutes into the second half with a side volley from 20 yards out by senior back Peter Jacobi into the top left corner of the Tigers’ goal.
The Bishops scored three more goals in the half including Bloecher’s second goal of the game in the 60th minute.
Martin, the winningest coach in college men’s soccer history with 625 wins, said he expects the team to win the conference championship and make a run in the NCAA tournament. But he said the team’s experience might not be enough.
“Yes, they’re experienced players and some of them are four-year starters and we have the best depth of any team I’ve ever had,” Martin said. “But we don’t have any leadership on the team. My expectations on the team are that we play much better than we did tonight (CNU game). I don’t even care about the outcome of the game; we didn’t play well. So I expect us to win the conference, I expect us to get into the NCAA tournament, I expect these guys to play a little better than they did tonight.”
Eganhouse agreed with Martin and said it’s great for the team to have amount of depth and experience this year’s team posses.
“We can play 20 guys on a night no problem, which is unlike other teams, so the depth and experience will definitely help against some of these teams that are a little more shallow,” Eganhouse said. “As the season goes on we’ll have more legs.”
Martin said Eganhouse is the leader in the back, but he is too far removed from the attacking players to make an impact on them and the team must get somebody to lead up top.
“You don’t have to be vocal, you don’t have to yell and scream, but you can lead by example and we don’t have anybody doing that,” he said.
One of the two players to graduate last year was four-year starter and three-time All-NCAC keeper Paul Hendricks. Junior Colin Beemiller has assumed the starting keeper position and is thriving, according to Martin.
“I’m very pleasantly surprised that Colin is Doing great,” Martin said. “We didn’t know how he would react since he sat behind Paul, didn’t get much time, but he’s doing really well.”
Beemiller said he is comfortable in the goal and owes most of that confidence to his teammates.
“It feels good, but I give a lot of credit to them (the team) because I was ready,” he said. “It wasn’t much of a step because I got in some scrimmages and stuff, got some playing time. It feels good to be the number one this year.”
As the Bishops continue their season, Eganhouse said the team has plenty of enthusiasm and incentive stemming from last year’s loss to Centre College in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“It was definitely too early for us to get out of the tournament, earliest it’s been in a long time,” he said. “It was motivation for the off-season; we worked hard and the new guys coming in know what our expectations are already. It’s fuel for the fire.”
Eganhouse said the proof of their hard work is in their first four wins.
Beemiller said everyone was dissatisfied with how last year’s season ended and the team now has even more to prove this season.
“I feel we reacted nicely; we were all pretty disappointed,” he said. “I don’t think any of us thought we should go out that early, and this year we’re trying to make a statement and definitely go deeper (into the NCAA tournament).”