Having an historic season often loses some of its luster if a team doesn’t capture a title. That’s been a familiar story for the Wright State men’s soccer team.
The Raiders have reached the Horizon League championship match four of the last five seasons only to be denied a championship and NCAA berth.
Saturday night, UIC won its fourth straight league tournament crown with a 3-1 win over the regular-season champion Raiders at Alumni Field.
It was a barrage of shots on goal by the Flames in the first half, leading to two goals being scored on league goalkeeper of the year Joel Sundell. In the fifth minute UIC beat the Raiders defense for an easy breakaway goal by freshman Josiah Ash . A header by Pau Mateo off a corner gave UIC a 2-0 advantage in the 36th minute.
“UIC has really good players, and in the first half they were very sharp,” WSU coach Jake Slemker said.
The Raiders had limited chances in the first half, recording zero shots on goal. In the 29th minute Alec Philippe was denied by a defender near the post. Then in the 30th a medium range shot off a corner went just wide of the net.
The first 37 minutes of the second half was relatively quiet with few chances at the goal for each squad. WSU cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 82nd minute when Deri Corfe chipped it on the edge of the box to Dominik Tajak, who knocked the ball in from the side of the post.
During the final five minutes of the game WSU made a hard charge in an attempt to tie. In the 85th minute Philippe nearly headed a shot off a long cross into the net. Then in the 87th the Raiders again nearly equalized after a cross from Philippe that seemed destined for Tajak got tipped out of the box.
UIC clinched it in the 89th minute on a goal by Ash .
WSU entered the match as the No. 18 team in the nation and was slotted at No. 11 by TopDrawerSoccer.com at one point this season — the highest-ever ranking for any sanctioned sport at the school.
“Obviously tonight didn’t go how we wanted it to, but the season has been a big positive,” Slemker said.
Slemker says he didn’t have much to say to his team following the match, but that they will be watching the NCAA Tournamet selection show on Monday, hopeful they get one of 24 at-large bids.
“If we could keep it going it would be great to have another day with this group,” Slemker said. “I think they want it and we’ve put in enough work over the body of the season to deserve a chance.”