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Men’s soccer off to rough start at home

Photo by: Henoc Kivuye


Despite comeback efforts led by junior Domenico DeGrazia, Eagles soccer dropped the first two games of their final home series 2-1 and 3-0.

The shutout loss to St. Mary’s University came from small corrections not made for collegiate-level play, according to freshman Troy Tippeconnic.

“It’s just the game you got to get used to, and if you make a mistake, that’s what happens,” Tippeconnic said. “It doesn’t even take a mistake, it takes half a mistake. At this level, half a mistake can cost you a goal, and that’s what happened. We played well, we moved the ball well, we dominated possession, but half a mistake – half a mental mistake – cost us. It cost us three goals.”

Saturday, Oct. 19 the Oklahoma Christian University squad had high hopes, still riding the momentum from an overtime victory against conference powerhouse Dallas Baptist University on the road. As the team returned home, sophomore Brandon Little Axe anticipated even more improvement.

“It’s much needed,” Little Axe said. “Playing at home’s a beautiful thing, and hopefully we can get some fans out.”

Their next foe, the Texas A&M International University Dustdevils, had a solid record going into the match, but Little Axe remained confident the team could carry momentum from their victory over Dallas Baptist.

“That spark we got last Thursday against [West] Texas A&M ended up with an unfortunate result, but we got that same spark Monday against DBU and won,” Little Axe said. “If we can just keep it up, regardless of who we play, we’ll keep the right attitude.”

The Dustdevils dominated the physical game throughout, muscling their way past the defense to fire 34 shots on goal compared to the Eagles’ 14. Texas A&M International’s first goal set the tone for the rest of the game; freshman keeper Evan Helker deflected a point-blank shot in the 39th minute, but couldn’t get to the immediate rebound kick by the Dustdevils’ Arturo Gutierrez.

Nearly 10 minutes later, the Eagles fouled and opened a free kick to Texas A&M International’s Camilo Botero. Botero knocked it in from 20 yards to give the visiting team a 2-0 lead. Apart from several close calls with the crossbar later in the game, Oklahoma Christian gathered their defense to hold off the Dustdevils’ attacks for the rest of the match.

The Eagles’ only goal came from DeGrazia, courtesy of Little Axe’s light touch and a fortunate mistake. Texas A&M International’s keeper, Miguel Lucio, didn’t clear the ball after coming off his line; Little Axe promptly sent the loose ball to DeGrazia, who hit the empty net in the final minute of play to prevent a shutout.

With less than a minute on the clock, Helker cleared the ball for a quick attempt on goal. Before the Eagles could touch it and attempt to send the game into overtime, Lucio snagged the shot, ending the match and handing the Eagles their first home loss of the series. Both Helker and Lucio logged five saves.

Monday, Oklahoma Christian looked to come out strong against St. Mary’s and take control of the tempo early, but couldn’t capitalize. The first half found St. Mary’s outshooting the Eagles 11-5, with the final tally favoring the Rattlers 19-11. DeGrazia and Tippeconnic led the Eagles in shots, finishing with five and three attempts, respectively.

Near the end of the first half, St. Mary’s Alex Gonzalez lined up a free kick. The Rattlers’ Jack Wolf intercepted the high ball, and headed it in to draw first blood. The rest of the first half and for the majority of the second, the Rattlers and the Eagles went back and forth, with both sides failing to capitalize on several opportunities. The Eagles, in particular, seemed to struggle with coverage.

“[It was] miscommunication in the back, just stuff like set pieces,” Tippeconnic said. “You know, we’re all talking and telling who to mark up, and maybe one guy doesn’t track his runner and he’ll get in the box for a header – that’s how the first goal happened.”

The Rattlers finally broke free however; Ryan Hoskins knocked one in unassisted in the 72nd minute. In the final minutes of the game, St. Mary’s once again utilized the Gonzalez-Wolf combo to put the final goal up on the board, clinching the Rattlers’ 3-0 shut out.

Oklahoma Christian’s next match is against Rogers State University tomorrow at 5. After, only three games remain in the Eagles’ season as they finish out the home series against Newman University. Oklahoma Christian closes out the season with a final trip down to Texas to play the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and Lubbock Christian University.

Tippeconnic sees the work to be done as far from over.

“Right now it’s just potential,” Tippeconnic said. “We weren’t able to turn that potential into talent and as many wins as we wanted to this year, but with the rest of this season and offseason, I think it’ll be fun to watch next year how we’ve grown. I’m looking forward to it.”


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