Mitchell Westall, staff writer
In need of a strong performance to remain in line for the Athletic-10 conference playoffs, Mason’s men’s soccer team pulled a close tie Wednesday against A-10 rivals, the University of Dayton Flyers.
The Flyers’ overpowering offensive attack dominated the first half of the match, but Mason played a strong defense, which limited the Flyers to a single goal.
It was a match-up of backup goalies Wednesday night as Mason senior Michael Butts faced Dayton sophomore Oliver Hansen in the net. Both Butts and Hansen entered the match with impressive statistics, each holding a stronger record than his team’s starting goalie. These numbers are likely to remain unchanged since both keepers let in just one goal apiece during the match.
Mason’s defensive performance was especially impressive considering how one of the team’s top defenders, senior Taylor Washington, was out due to an injury.
Dayton’s high-powered offense appeared to be heading toward a strong victory when the team scored early in the first half. In the eleventh minute, Mason committed a foul that gave Dayton a free kick. Flyer midfielder Michael Frasca took the kick, which midfielder Kissima Bojang put in the net, giving Dayton a 1-0 lead.
Dayton’s offense continued attacking for the remainder of the first half, but players were unable to convert any opportunities into goals.
Mason’s offense had three solid opportunities that they could not seem to cash in. In the seventeenth minute, sophomore forward Henning Dirks, missed the net wide on a solid one-on-one opportunity.
Less than forty seconds later, Mason senior defender Edgar Zepeda took a shot from about thirty-five yards away from the net. Flyer goalie Oliver Hansen failed to see it coming and missed the save.
By the end of the first half, Mason had committed eight fouls compared to Dayton’s five. Mason also took four corner kicks during the first half but could not convert any of them into goals as they were all cleared by Dayton’s defense. Dayton was only given three corner kick opportunities during the first half.
The match’s second half was a much different story. Though Dayton is widely known as a second-half team, it was Mason’s offense who appeared to dominate.
In the sixth minute of the second period, Dayton had an excellent three-on-one opportunity, but Mason defender Alain Sergeant made an outstanding play that forced Dayton’s forward to send the shot wide.
In the tenth minute Mason player Henning Dirks came up close against Dayton’s goalie, but his shot was saved by Hansen.
Mason’s strong offensive effort finally paid off in the twenty-fourth minute when freshman defender Jordan Edwards took the ball away at midfield and got it to senior midfielder Ryan Harmouche. Harmouche set up junior forward Matt Tucker for a shot on goal that found its way into the hands of Hansen. However, Hansen misplayed the ball, and it slid right through his grasp into the back of the net.
“The players worked hard and [the bouncing ball] got to my foot, and I took a shot and luckily the goalie made a mistake and it went in the goal,” Tucker said.
This was Tucker’s team-leading third goal of the season, giving him the team lead in points. His was the final goal of regulation as the match entered double overtime.
In the second minute of overtime, junior forward Daniel Hoffman took the ball far in the offensive zone, but he failed to convert on a strong scoring chance that could have won the game for Mason.
Following two strong ten-minute overtime periods for Mason, neither team managed to score, closing the game in a tie. This was Mason’s second tie of the season in their conference.
After a rough first half, it was apparent that head coach Greg Andrulis had made some adjustments that allowed Mason to tie it up.
“In the second half we started a high press, we made them kick the ball to us, we played a little soccer, and then luckily we got a lucky chance that found the goal. From there on it was just hard work and perseverance and we got the tie, but hopefully next time we’ll get the win,” Tucker said.
As for the tie against the Flyers, Mason currently sits twelfth in the Atlantic-10 standings, ahead of only St. Bonaventure.
“We’re just [going to] play hard in practice for the next couple days, get in shape, get better, and hopefully we can get the next one,” Tucker said.