By Maggie Fipps
The Cedarville Yellow Jackets’ men’s soccer team opened their season with a 2-0 victory over the Wheeling Cardinals on Saturday.
From the opening minutes, it was obvious that this was the first game. The usual crisp passes and play development that fans expect were absent as the Cardinals intercepted and boxed in Cedarville’s offensive efforts. Even as scoring opportunities abounded, sloppy or intercepted passes from the forwards kept Cedarville from capitalizing on offensive breakthroughs.
“It felt a little bit like a first game,” head coach Brett Faro said. “There are certain things we need to grow up and mature in.”
Both teams battled on the sidelines as they tried to get a meaningful offensive play to coalesce and work out the opening night jitters.
However, out of the chaos of the first half came Cedarville’s opportunity. As the 21st minute counted down, midfielder Victor Pomelli lofted a corner kick to defender Michael Payne, whose head popped out of the fray to pound the ball into the back of the goal.
Soon after, Pomelli, hoping to capitalize on the lead, hit another corner kick into the crowded penalty box, but it went right into goalie Austin Aarons’s hands, foiling the Jackets’ momentum.
Even as they were trailing, strong midfield play from the Cardinals kept giving their forwards chances to attack, but Cedarville goalie Jared Zacharias kept the scoring contained, ending the game with three saves.
As the sun set on Yellow Jacket Field, it also set on the Cardinals’ chances. A free kick from Pomelli set up a header from Mauricio Ochoa Vazquez to clinch Cedarville’s second and final goal.
However, the Cardinals did not relent. With 10 minutes left, midfielder Cole Congson shimmied and skirted past defenders on his way to an attack on the goal, but a good save from Matthias Dewhurst eliminated any chance of a comeback from the Cardinals.
The Yellow Jackets come into the season with high expectations after making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, and with a roster comprised of 70% upperclassmen, they showed their dominance.
In contrast, Wheeling had a disappointing 5-11-1 record last year and are hoping to prove more going into the season.
Nonconference matchups like this are important for the Jackets’ to get the experience they need to go deep into the playoffs.
“We try to schedule in a way that prepares us for the conference play,” Faro said. “We don’t get many nonconference games, so every opportunity we get to play is helpful.”
The Jackets will get another chance to prepare and gel as a team at home versus the McKendree Bearcats on September 1.
Maggie Fipps is a sophomore journalism student and the sports editor of Cedars. She enjoys playing the piano and thrifting, and you may spot her around campus sporting Packers gear head to toe.