Sports

Men’s soccer finish winless Florida trip with scoreless draw

After falling to Bulls and tying Eagles, Bears return to College Hill with losing record through six games

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 22, 2014

Defender Tim Whalen ’16 dribbles the ball down the field. Bruno’s defenders were forced to work hard in the Sunshine State, as the Bears were outshot 35-21 over their two games.

It turned out 110 minutes were not enough time to determine a winner in the second game of the men’s soccer team’s Florida road trip. The Bears’ offense failed to take advantage of stellar play from starting keeper Mitch Kupstas ’14.5, who recorded a season-high eight saves in the double-overtime scoreless draw against Florida Gulf Coast University.

“We were definitely prepared and rose to the challenge,” Kupstas said. “It was hot and very humid, way different from the weather we see in Providence, but we hung with them for the full 110 minutes.”

The Bears (2-3-1) held a slight advantage over the Eagles (1-3-3) through the first half, managing to create a narrow 6-5 lead in shots and committing just one foul to FGCU’s four.

At the start of the second half, Alex Markes ’15 checked into the game. The senior defender saw his first action of the season Thursday, playing the entire second half in Bruno’s 3-1 loss against the University of South Florida (3-2-0). Markes played a similar role in Saturday’s game, logging 65 minutes of work, all in the second half and overtime periods.

“I’m really happy to have him back,” Kupstas said. “He’s a tremendous athletic presence. There were at least two or three times when he came in with a diving header and cleared the ball for us. It’s great to have another guy that I can rely on in the back.”

The Eagles had all of the chances in the second half, but Markes, Kupstas and the rest of the Bears’ defense were prepared for the offensive onslaught. FGCU fired 13 shots towards the Brown net, all of which were either saved by Kupstas, blocked by a defender or whizzed wide due to heavy pressure from the defense.

“Our backline really came through for me,” Kupstas said. “It’s been a bit of a building process for us — we’ve been changing our rotation up with each game. But the defense came through against Florida Gulf Coast.”

In extra time, both teams seemed to suffer from tired legs. The Bears managed just a single shot in the first overtime and could not get an attempt off in the second extra time. The powerful Eagles offense could only get off four shots in the extra 20 minutes and forced just one save from Kupstas.

Bruno escaped with a tie, despite being outshot 22-11 by the end of the second extra time. The Florida tour was not particularly kind to the Bears — they dealt with extreme heat and talented opposing offenses, and failed to make any headway in the NCAA rankings discussion. But the squad did not come away from a weekend in the Sunshine State empty-handed.

“We learned a lot about how we respond to adversity,” Kupstas said. “Both teams were extremely tough, fast and technical, so it took us a little while to adjust in the first game, but we matched up to Florida Gulf Coast and responded well to that type of adversity. Knowing that about ourselves will help us in the future.”

The Bears will return to Stevenson Field to take on the University of Vermont (5-2-0) Friday at 7 p.m. Conference play begins Oct. 4 when Bruno hosts Columbia (2-2-0), but the team is not looking that far ahead yet.

“The Ivy League season is extremely important to us,” Kupstas said. “But we’re fighting for every win we can get. Our eyes are on Vermont right now. If we could string a couple wins together, that would really get us going in the right direction.”

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