Men’s soccer blanks UNC-Greensboro

With the Ivy League conference play just a week away, the men’s soccer team played one last non-conference season game this weekend.

The Bears were searching for a burst of confidence, according to Darren Howerton ’09, when they faced off against UNC-Greensboro (3-5-1) last Saturday night.

The Bears (5-2-1) made their best offensive showing of the year, winning 3-0. The defense continued its domination with its sixth shutout on the year as well.

“Defensively, every time we get a shutout, we get more confident,” Howerton said. “Scoring three goals gives us confidence too. Overall, we came out more confident as a team.”

The Bears jumped off to an early lead in the 16th minute when Howerton sent the ball to the box on a free kick. Rhett Bernstein ’09 got a head on the ball and sent it past the Spartans’ goalie for the first goal of the game. This is the third game in a row the pair has combined for a goal. Bruno held the 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

Not long after the intermission, Jon Okafor ’11 put another tally on the board in the 48th minute. Howerton crossed the ball to the middle of the box where Okafor knocked one in from the right post. Howerton recorded his second assist of the day and fourth of the season.

Okafor wasn’t finished, though. In the 60th minute, he received a pass from TJ Thompson ’10 and made a move to beat a Spartan defender before finding the back of the net. The two scorers in this game, Okafor and Bernstein, now lead the team in goals with three apiece.

The Bears’ defense held on for the rest of the game for a 3-0 win. Bruno has shut down its opponents with solid defense all season, allowing only four goals, three coming in a 3-1 loss to Charleston. Goalie Jarrett Leech ’09 had six saves and recorded his fourth win on the year (4-0-1). The defense withstood fiery attacks put up by the Spartans, who out shot the Bears 16-11 and had a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks.

“We didn’t have as many chances as UNC-Greensboro, but we concentrated more on finishing them – that was key,” Bernstein said.

With the defense recording its sixth shutout of the season and the offense finding the back of the net as of late, the men’s soccer team is ready to begin a new chapter in its season.

“Once the Ivy League starts, it’s a new season,” Howerton said. “We get everyone’s best. It’s not the same as non-conference.”

Despite their success behind solid defense thus far, the Bears know they’ll be up for a fight with every team they face in Ivy League competition.

“Going into Ivies, it’s a very physical game, a battle,” Bernstein said. “We’re very well prepared in that respect.”

Bruno opens up Ivy League play at home on Saturday as they take on Columbia at 4 p.m. at Stevenson Field.