Dons Looking to Repeat WCC Reign

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Freshman defender Harrison Kepp (#3) brings the ball forward in attack for the Dons. YANNICK PETERHANS/FOGHORN

The Dons men’s soccer team faced off against the University of San Diego Toreros during a sunny afternoon on Oct. 7. The Dons started West Coast Conference play the way they would have hoped to, triumphing over the Toreros 2-1.

After a brief feeling out period, the Dons got straight to business with freshman Ashish Chattha opening his collegiate goalscoring account in the fifth minute of the match. The build up to the goal started when a Toreros defender whiffed while attempting to clear freshman Harrison Kepp’s crossfield pass to junior Jorge Ruiz. Ruiz took one touch to control the ball into the Toreros’ box, but had his quick shot parried away by San Diego’s keeper Matt Wiher. Chattha found himself in perfect position to volley the ball back on target and into the back of the net, leaving Wiher no chance to recover.

Following the initial goal, both Wiher and Dons sophomore keeper Ruben Stuiver made multiple goal-saving stops to keep the scoreline at 1-0. The Dons’ tight control of possession started to dwindle as the half progressed and the game became more physical, with eight fouls issued between the two teams after the opening goal. The Toreros grew into the game and, going into halftime, looked to be the more dangerous of the two sides. Despite this, the Dons were able to maintain their one goal lead at the half.

The Dons’ second goal of the contest came 12 minutes into the second half from a set-piece. Redshirt sophomore David Polson played a short corner kick to senior Santiago Digiuseppe. Digiuseppe showed his skill, nutmegging a Toreros defender to free up space for a sumptuous outside of the foot cross. The ball was played at the perfect height for the unmarked senior Noah Leong, who had come on as a substitute for injured sophomore Seamus McLaughlin, to head home his second goal of the season.

Just two minutes later, the Toreros would halve the Dons’ lead to one. A penalty kick was awarded when the Dons captain, sophomore defender Bar Twito, fouled Torero Cameron Kaemerle deep inside of the Dons’ 18-yard box. For the infraction, Twito was issued a yellow card. The Toreros’ Miguel Berry stepped up and cooly placed the ball in the top-right corner of the net.

Berry’s goal seemingly gave the Toreros new impetus in the match, with Berry nearly netting the equalizer in the 74th minute. The forward hit a quick shot through a crowd goalwards that prompted Stuiver to leap into action, making an acrobatic save to his left hand side and pushing the ball past his far post.

When the final whistle blew, the Dons seemed to be visibly relieved while the Toreros appeared dejected, with several players resting on the ground after the hard-fought match.

The Dons are looking to defend their WCC title this season, with the win over San Diego the first step toward doing so. Looking forward to their remaining WCC matches, the Dons will have multiple opportunities to help reclaim their title.

There are two away matches on the horizon for the Dons, the first coming against the St. Mary’s College Gaels on Oct. 13 and the second against the University of the Pacific Tigers on Oct. 19. The fixture against the Gaels will certainly be a tough game for the Dons. The Gaels currently have a perfect 12-0-0 record and are ranked No. 9 in the country, having decimated Pacific 4-0 on Oct. 7. In the coaches’ preseason poll, Pacific were picked to finish in first place. The Tigers were the Dons closest competitors in WCC play last year, finishing with a 4-2-1 record in conference play.

Next, the Dons will start a three game home stand against the University of Portland on Oct. 26. The Pilots finished third in the WCC last year and are currently the No. 11 team in the nation, holding an unbeaten 9-0-2 record. The Dons WCC record after the Portland game will be a barometer of their ability to repeat as champions, as their final three games are against teams that finished in the bottom-half of the WCC table last year.

The match against Gonzaga University on Oct. 28 is the win the Dons are counting on, since the Bulldogs failed to win a single WCC match last year. After that, the Dons will take on the Santa Clara University Broncos on Nov. 3. This is yet another game the Dons can view as winnable, as the Broncos have a sub .500 record so far this season.

Finally, the team will end its regular season on the road in Los Angeles against the Loyola Marymount University Lions on Nov. 10. With this game, the Dons will be looking to finish the season strong and reclaim the WCC title before heading into the NCAA tournament.

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