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Tie moves Bobcats one step closer to goal
“Keep on carrying on. 1823.”
Signs with this phrase and number line the men’s soccer locker room. Everywhere you look, there it is.
The words and numbers serve as a constant reminder of the team’s goal: the NEC Championship on Nov. 18 and a first round game in the NCAA tournament on Nov. 23.
“One, eight, two, three” coach Eric Da Costa told his players prior to Friday’s 1-1 tie against Robert Morris. “Let’s go out there and get those three points and move one step closer.”
Most of the team strolls into the locker room, headphones on and iPod playing at about 1:15 p.m., an hour and 45 minutes before game-time.
With music blaring from the locker room and team jokester Ross McGibney singing along, the Bobcats, who are still one of two unbeaten teams in the country, seem to not have a care in the world.
After Da Costa goes over the game plan with his team one last time at around 2 p.m., the Bobcats go through their normal pre-game routine of stretching, running and passing drills before heading back to the locker room.
Rain was in the forecast for Saturday afternoon, so both teams were prepared for a wet playing surface. However, what started as a light drizzle turned into torrential downpour by game’s end, leaving the field virtually unplayable by the end of the second overtime.
The conditions left McGibney, who is from Ireland, with a feeling of nostalgia.
“Today (Friday) made me feel like I was home, but it ended up unplayable,” the Dublin native said. “You couldn’t dribble because the ball would stop in a puddle everytime. They were some of the worst conditions I’ve ever played in.”
The return of Rodrigo Uchoa from injury allowed Da Costa to start his normal lineup. A groin injury kept Uchoa off the field for the last three games.
The Bobcats fell behind midway through the first half when a turnover in the midfield resulted in a scoring chance for the Colonials.
Bobcat goalkeeper Freddy Hall was forced to come off his line and a collision between him, Bobcat defender Shane Recklet and a Robert Morris forward led to a penalty kick.
Jacek Przednowek buried his 11th goal of the season into the lower left corner past Hall to give the Colonials a 1-0 lead.
The Bobcats best chance came with five minutes to go in the first half when left defender Pierre Soubrier found a streaking Nick Pelicaen outside the 18-yard box. Pelicaen beat a Colonial defender before chipping the ball past RMU goalkeeper Matt Pelice. The ball trickled just wide of the right post and the half ended with the Colonials leading 1-0.
Despite the deficit, Da Costa was pleased with his team’s performance in the first half.
“We held possession well, but it’s where we play the ball that’s the problem,” he told his team. “Let’s pick up the pace of the game. Get the ball and go forward.”
Being behind is not something new for the Bobcats. On three separate occasions this season the Bobcats have trailed, but have yet to suffer a loss.
“We’ve been here before and there’s no need to panic,” said Da Costa between halves. “We’ve come out on top before, so let’s do it again.”
The Bobcats responded to Da Costa’s speech, dominating play in the second half.
Controlling possession despite the conditions and playing down a player after Soubrier was given his second yellow card and ejected from the game, the Bobcats nearly tied the game on a shot by Pelicaen.
On a similar play to his chance in the first half, Pelicaen took a thru-ball from McGibney and again chipped the goalie, but the ball rolled just wide of the right post.
Five minutes later, McGibney played a corner kick towards the goal that was headed by Graciano Brito towards the far post. Dwayne Mars put the loose ball in for the first goal of his collegiate career, tying the game at 1-1.
With the conditions worsening, Brito nearly put the Bobcats ahead on an unbelievable shot.
With his back to the goal and a defender between him and the goal, Brito kicked the ball with his heel from about 15 yards away. The ball skipped by Pelice but trickled just wide.
Throughout overtime, players from both teams struggled to keep possession or even stay on their feet.
“The skies just opened up and it was difficult for everybody,” Da Costa said. “I was real proud of our effort. We were in a tough spot and rose to the occasion.”
Hall made 12 saves, including three in overtime to keep the score even. He said the conditions are really tough on goalies.
“It is so unpredictable. You didn’t know where the ball will bounce. Plus it is real hard to move and you are soaking wet and feel 10 pounds heavier,” Hall said.
Da Costa said the play of Pelicaen and Mars off the bench is a testament to the depth of the Bobcats offensively.
“We have so many threats. When teams focus on Graci (Brito), we’ve got other weapons that will score,” he said.
Following Friday’s tie, Da Costa told his team he’s not surprised with their success.
“Believe you are that good. We can play with anyone in the country. Don’t let teams think they can beat you,” he said.
The Bobcats remained unbeaten with another 1-1 draw on Sunday against St. Francis (N.Y.).
Bobcat midfielder Danilo Schiavon put QU on the board in the 23rd minute when he got the ball right in front of goal and tapped it in for his fifth tally of the year. Sophomore midfielder Fabricio Silva assisted on the goal.