The last two weeks proved eventful ones for the Oberlin's men's soccer team. The ride began with an important victory over powerhouse Wittenberg and ended with five consecutive losses to stiff competition, the middle three coming on a Fall Break trip to the Washington, D.C. area.
Entering their game against Wittenberg, the Yeomen faced news that Wittenberg had defeated Kenyon, who had handed Oberlin an 8-1 shellacking earlier in the season. Whether it was the breakfast they ate or the inspirational words of coach Chris Barker, the Yeomen approached their challenge ready to fight, soundly disposing Wittenberg 4-1.
The scoring started early and was sparked by junior Stephen Kehler, who spent the day running relentlessly. Kehler received the ball on the left sideline well behind the midline. After a deft trap, he turned and found sophomore midfielder Sam Hopkins open up the line. Hopkins continued in his playmaking tradition this season, slashing through and racing past four defenders single-handedly, at which point he found himself in the back left corner of the penalty area. He worked himself into position for a cross, and sent it sailing over the keeper, and only feet from the far post. Junior Jon Wilson was ready, waiting for the pass which seemingly left him little angle for a shot on goal. Too low to put a head on it, Wilson somehow found a way to reach his right leg up, corral the ball, and direct it into the goal past a helpless keeper.
Wittenberg responded with some fire of their own, making the rest of the half exciting. Senior Jabali Sawicki bore the brunt of some of that excitement when he was issued a yellow card by a referee who was more aggressive than usual. In an unusual exchange of words, the referee asked Sawicki, "Would you like to survive in this game?" Sawicki responded coolly by saying, "Pops, what's the matter?" Sawicki was replaced by junior Yair Evnine for the rest of the first half.
The Yeomen threatened once more in the first half when Hopkins hit the cross bar on a 40 yard free kick attempt.
Before the end of the half, Wittenberg tied the game by taking advantage of one of Oberlin's few defensive miscues. Evnine was caught defending two players at the top of the box, and before anyone could heed coach Barker's pleas, the ball was delivered to one of the open men, who turned and fired past the helpless defender.
Oberlin came out in the second half with perhaps the best soccer they have played this season. They added to their lead early in the half when Hopkins initiated yet another scoring opportunity. This time he beat two defenders on the right side, crossed the ball over a crowd in the box, finding Wilson clear on the other side. With an open shot at a header, Wilson chose instead to trap the ball on his chest, which didn't go as well as planned. He lost the ball momentarily, but recovered in time to attempt a shot. The shot hit the crowd, and deflected back out to the top of the box where Sawicki was waiting. He ran in and slid toward the ball, shooting it mid-slide into the upper left corner for the winning goal.
Wilson proceeded to make the victory a blowout with two goals near the end. The first came out of a classic give-and-go with midfielder Dave Lesinger. Upon the receiving the ball from Lesinger, Wilson burst through two surprised defenders, warded off the last defender simply by physically overmatching him, and cut left before slotting the ball past a lunging goalie with a confident tap of his left foot.
At this point Wilson's mother was cheering for a hat trick from her son, holder of the Oberlin single-game scoring record of five. Mrs. Wilson got her wish when her son beat the goalie one on one for his third goal of the match.
The match was characterized by consistent physical play from Oberlin, making a lauded Wittenberg team look clumsy and overmatched. Bucking trends set earlier in the season, the Yeomen won the battle in the air, controlling the majority of 50/50 balls.
The Yeomen also received a shot in the arm from sophomore fill-in keeper Tyler Smith, who stepped in for injured starter sophomore Caleb Stokes and turned in a stellar performance. Stokes, out with a separated shoulder, led the cheers from the crowd, which spurred Smith's gutsy play.
The Yeomen had hoped to carry their momentum from the Wittenberg victory into their Fall Break trip. Their first game, however, was the Saturday after midterms, and the academic onslaught apparently took its toll on the team. Sawicki missed the trip, and the Yeomen lost to Allegheny 6-0. During the blowout, Wilson, by far the team's most prolific scorer, received a red card, banishing him from the next game against Marymount in Virginia.
Their trouble with the law continued there, with midfielder sophomore Zach Fine and defender sophomore Ned Basbaum receiving suspensions: Fine's for a red card, and Basbaum's for accumulating yellow cards. The Yeomen lost that match 3-0 to what some players felt was extremely questionable officiating.
Missing the services of two players, the Yeomen concluded their trip at Columbia Union in Maryland, a school for Seventh Day Adventists. That game got away by a score of 4-1, Kheler scoring the ony goal of the trip.
The Yeomen returned to school in time for a date with Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. In a game many Yeomen felt they could have won, Case managed to put two goals through in a rainy, sloppy game. In a low light for the Yeomen, Evnine injured his ankle when he was dangerously slide-tackled from the side, and may be lost for the remainder of the season.
Asked what he thought of the play, Evnine said, "It was a bad tackle. I didn't even have the ball anymore. He only got a yellow for it, too."
Describing the Fall Break trip, sophomore Stephen Menyhart said, "It was a week of good bonding for the team, and we came together on the field. Unfortunately, it didn't result in any wins."
In general the team seems a bit worn from the rigors of the season, which will end in less than two weeks. Asked about the effect injuries have had on the team, midfielder junior Chris Nytch said, "Yeah, we have some injuries. But we're looking forward to a strong finish, especially against Denison here on Parent's Weekend."
On goal: The men's soccer team goes over their twinkle-toe footwork in preparation for their trip to Washington D.C. (photo by Matt Maddy)
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 7, October 30, 1998
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