(Written by Cory Biro)
The schedule couldn’t be set up more perfectly. The Blue Streaks had been red hot, winning each of their last seven matches on their way to the top spot in the OAC with a 6-0 record in conference play. No. 15 Ohio Northern was a step behind the Blue Streaks at 5-0-1, but has been one of the best teams in the nation all season long. Thanks to a Baldwin-Wallace loss earlier in the day, a late season duel between the OAC’s best in 2011 would virtually determine the regular season conference champion.
Unfortunately, the Blue Streaks allowed two second half goals and the men’s soccer team lost their first OAC game of the season by a final score of 2-0. It was John Carroll’s fourth loss in four sports to Ohio Northern last weekend in just over 24 hours, and with a regular season OAC title chance on the line, this loss may have hurt the most.
The Polar Bears (14-2-2, 6-0-1 OAC) proved that they are an extremely talented and attack-oriented team, which posed enough of a challenge for head coach Hector Marinaro and his team. But the Blue Streaks (10-6, 6-1 OAC) faced even further adversity as junior forward and leading goal-scorer Wycliffe Odhiambo left the game in the eighth minute with an apparent leg injury.
The highly anticipated game began with both squads stressing the importance of strong defense. The cold weather seemed to break down each team, with a lot of unexpected holes and sudden scoring opportunities in the first half. Both goalies were being pelted by shots the entire first half as JCU fired seven shots while ONU took nine shots of their own. Thankfully, senior goalie Carl Contrascier performed tremendously, blanking the Polar Bears through the first 45 minutes of action. Unfortunately, the Blue Streaks couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end and the teams went into the break with a scoreless tie.
Ohio Northern came out guns blazing in the second half, ripping off two goals in the first eight minutes of the half. In the 49th minute, Nathan Bascom found himself positioned perfectly to knock in a rebound shot for the first goal. In the 53rd minute, the Polar Bears brought the ball up the right side of the pitch, crossed it into the box and Greg Stawicki beat Contrascier to the left post for the 2-0 lead.
That would be all Ohio Northern would need as the Blue Streaks simply couldn’t capitalize on their few second half chances.
“We played really well for about 30 minutes of the first half, but against a team like Ohio Northern, you have to put together a full 90 minutes,” said coach Marinaro after the game. “They are a very good team and they proved it once again tonight. We have to rebound from this game, get ready for Baldwin-Wallace Tuesday night and hope we get another chance at [Ohio] Northern in the playoffs.”
The Blue Streaks will take on Capital University in Bexley, Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. in the regular season finale for JCU.