GEORGETOWN, Texas – For 45 minutes, the Southwestern University Pirates men's soccer team was pinned back against its own goal, nursing a 1-0 lead against the Colorado College Tigers in the second half.
A month of rain and three matches over two days made the home pitch tough to navigate in certain spots on the ground. Winds reaching 20 miles per hour pushing against them made it almost impossible for Southwestern to move the ball through the air.
Instead, they formed an impenetrable shell, protecting their goal and home field to shut down Colorado College for a 1-0 victory to advance to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship match for the first time since 2013.
"That's probably our first full 90-minute performance of the season," Southwestern head coach Dustin Norman said. "There's not a minute of the game where they weren't giving everything they had, getting into tackles and moving as much as they could.
The Pirates pressured early, building a 7-4 shot half, including two corner kicks. At the 22:38 mark, Southwestern connected on the only goal of the match when Kip Karschnik delivered a perfect corner kick that found Brendan Dauth, whose header provided the game-winner.
"That was massive. We had to get a goal in that half," Norman said. "[The wind] was going to make it really difficult in the second half. I wasn't thrilled with how heavily we had to hunker in against it for 45 minutes."
When the teams changed sides after the break, so did their shot profiles as Colorado College produced a 7-3 shot advantage in the second half. And those seven shots belie the amount of time the Tigers kept possession on the Pirates' side of the field.
With three waves of defensive lines, it took everything for the Pirates just to keep the Tigers from puncturing their defense enough to get to a threatening spot. Southwestern swarmed to the ball, identifying threats, responding with appropriate responses and retreating when the attack was cleared.
They marked Colorado College leading scorer Robert Malone all match, limiting him to a single shot—an ambitious swing taken out of frustration from deep, sailing high and wide of the goal.
Southwestern's midfielders funneled Colorado College's attack to the sidelines, where they quickly brought a second defender over to force the Tigers out of bounds or surprise with a steal or slide tackle. The two times the Tigers got a shot on goal in the second half, Southwestern goalie Alan Carr came up with big saves.
When Colorado College did get the ball past Southwestern's second line, the Pirates pushed the ball wide to concede corner kicks, where the wind picked up even the slightest mistake from the Tigers and carried the ball over the goal.
Over the course of the second half, the shape of the Tigers' formation wore down as much as the field as passes became less crisp; providing opportunistic long runs on one or two-man breaks.
Over the final two minutes of the match, the Pirates retook and controlled possession, inching their way up the field on deep throw-ins down the sideline from Wil Mekelburg. His passes would sail through the air, finding a Pirate to play the ball off a Colorado player and out of bounds; allowing Mekelburg to bleed precious seconds with his lumbering gait.
After being constrained for 45 minutes, Jake Swonke finally broke free in the open field, swerving wide short of the goal to kill the clock and preserve the win.
"They probably covered a full marathon already this weekend," Norman said. "They did a great job closing down players and putting them under pressure and it ultimately paid off."
With the win, the Pirates improve to 11-5-2 on the season and 7-7-1 all-time in SCAC Tournament play. They advance to play Trinity University in the championship match tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.