Just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse for men's soccer, somehow they managed to do just that.
Following a promising win over Wittenberg University before Fall Break, the team embarked upon a treacherous seven-game losing streak, culminating in a 3-1 home loss to Earlham College on Saturday and a crushing 13-0 road loss to a powerful Ohio Wesleyan University on Tuesday.
The Earlham loss was hard to swallow for the win-hungry Yeomen. Oberlin was only edged out in shots 20-18, but found themselves physically overmatched. In addition, they were unable to find a way to stop Earlham's speedy striker Chris Wilson, who managed two goals on the day. The Yeomen had an offensive weapon of their own in junior Jon Wilson, but he had difficulty freeing himself up against an Earlham defense that positioned themselves well and stood their ground.
Oberlin's only goal - and their short-lived lead - came off of an Earlham miscue in the 19th minute. While under pressure from forward junior Steve Kehler, Earlham's Duff Davis attempted to clear the ball from the penalty area but did so into the back of his own net. Earlham's Wilson put home the equalizer in the 27th minute with a shot to the lower left corner. The go-ahead goal, and the lead for good, came in the 40th minute with Wilson utilizing his speed to burst through a stunned Oberlin defensive line. Earlham would take this 2-1 lead into half-time.
The second half saw Oberlin pick up their pace with the backing of an enthusiastic home crowd. The proverbial twelfth man would even manage to provoke Earlham's Walter Antoniuk into responding to the crowd's jeers. This, in turn, prompted Earlham coach Roy Messer to remove him from the game. It wasn't enough, however, as just when Oberlin seemed to be formulating an attack, Earlham deflated their bubble with a third and final goal with 17 minutes remaining.
Another low point of the game came when Wilson's argument with an opposing player garnered them each a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty would prevent him from playing in the Yeomen's next game against Ohio Wesleyan.
The OWU game proved to be a crushing blow for the Yeomen. It dropped their record to 5-11 on the season and 1-5 in the NCAC. There was little to say following a game in which the Yeomen were so clearly outmatched. They were outshot 33-8, and out-fouled 30-17. Goalie sophomore Caleb Stokes, who had the unenviable task of watching each of the 13 goals sail into the net, did manage to make 9 very impressive saves.
OWU's coach Jay Martin did what he could to avoid running up the score, substituting all of his players and eventually limiting his players to two touches on the ball. But the subs evidently were an even bigger problem, parlaying their fresh legs and excitement at a chance to play into eight second-half goals.
"Our defense had to play well," said coach Chris Barker about his team's most recent losses. "But defense isn't just the four guys listed as full backs, it's all eleven men on the field. Our guys gave their guys five feet on defense, and they just ran right by us. Good teams will do that."
Barker took some of the blame for the team's woes. "I haven't been able to figure out how to make these guys play like they did against Wittenberg every time out. I guess that is my failure as a coach, and in that respect, I'd say I've been a bad coach this year."
When asked what he might do in preparation for the team's final game against Denison at home on Saturday, Barker said, "This team has come out strong in some games and weak in others. We have to play aggressively on defense to have a chance. These guys seem to respond well to home crowds."
The Yeomen round out their season at home this Saturday at 2 p.m.
Practice makes perfect: The Yeomen prepare for their final game of the season. (photo by Zach Fried)
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 8, November 6, 1998
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