Sports

In need of wins, men’s soccer return home

Florida trip yields no success for Bears, who return to R.I. for final weekend before Ivy play

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 26, 2014

Midfielder Tariq Akeel ’16 takes the ball up the field. As the team’s leading goal-scorer, Akeel’s offensive presence will be key if Bruno is to have a successful home weekend against the Catamounts and Stags.

It will be a true homecoming weekend for men’s soccer, as the team returns from a Florida road trip for two nonconference challengers at Stevenson Field. A high-scoring offense from the University of Vermont and a defense-minded squad from Fairfield University will test the Bears in their last tune-up before Ivy League play begins next week.

The Florida trip, which saw the team fall to the University of South Florida 3-1 before battling to a scoreless draw against Florida Gulf Coast University, was a ruthless one for Bruno. But competing against high-caliber teams in the heat and humidity taught the team a lot, said defender Alex Markes ’15.

“We only tied (FCGU), but the team learned how hard we need to work to get a shutout, which is really important for us,” said defender Tim Whalen ’16.

No small credit for the defense’s stout performance goes to the return of two key upperclassmen on the back line: Markes and Jameson Lochhead ’16. Injuries sidelined both players at the beginning of the year, but Lochhead worked his way back into the starting lineup Sept. 14, and Markes expects to start this weekend after seeing his first minutes of the year against South Florida.

Both players bring experience and physicality to the Bruno defense, the team’s strength in recent years.

“It’s great to have Markes back on the field,” Whalen said. “He makes great tackles, and he’s a leader out there.”

Lochhead “is a big body,” said Markes. “It’s hard to beat him in the air.”

Bruno has beefed up its defensive third just in time because Vermont will bring a talented offense into Friday night’s matchup.

The Catamounts will continue to count on striker Brian Wright to power the effort; the sophomore has answered the call thus far with five goals in the team’s first seven games. Vermont’s 1.86 goals per game far exceeds Brown’s 1.0, but if the Bears can keep up the momentum from their shutout of FGCU, they have one of the best defenses the Catamounts will see. Markes said that as long as the defense remains prepared to drop and protect their runs in the back, they can contain Vermont.

While Vermont relies on offense, Fairfield will present a challenge on the other end of the field. Four of the Stags’ first six opponents were unable to penetrate their defense. But the Bears were unfazed by their opponents’ impressive 0.5 goals against average.

Markes called the offense a “good success” this season — pointing out that the FGCU game was the only time Bruno has been shut out — and was quick to credit team captains Ben Maurey ’15.5 and Daniel Taylor ’15.

The offense “comes from Ben Maurey coming back from injury and Daniel Taylor, who has stepped up and played an attacking role in the midfield,” he said.

Sunday afternoon games often draw smaller crowds with less energy, and Whalen said overcoming this would be the real test for the offense.

“We need to focus on keeping our energy and focus high,” he said. “We need to be committed to the attack.”

As dominant as Fairfield’s defense has been, its offense has been ineffective most of the season. The Stags are still looking for their first multi-goal game, have been shut out twice and haven’t even attempted a corner kick in the second half of any game this season.

Conversely, the Bears and free-kick specialist Jack Gorab ’16 owe many of their goals to set pieces. Bruno can expect a big advantage in corner kicks, and a wide margin could translate into a victory for the home team.

Whalen called the FGCU draw a good “bounce-back performance” but stressed the team’s need to keep momentum through the Vermont and Fairfield games to continue into conference play next weekend.

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