Men’s Soccer Slumps

The Flames men’s soccer team hit a slump last week and fell to the Virginia Cavaliers Tuesday, 2-1, on the road before returning to Osborne Stadium Saturday and getting shut out by the High Point Panthers, 2-0, on homecoming weekend.

It has been a season of highs and lows for the team.  Entering last week, they were in the middle of a three-game win streak.

“Our thing emotionally (is) let’s not get too high or low,” Flames head coach Jeff Alder said.

Alder tries to keep his players even-keeled.  He wants them to maintain focus in the game and play concentrated soccer as much as he wants them to be aggressive and attack on defense.

He emphasized ball control going into the game Oct. 5 against the Cavaliers.  Alder said they practiced well and were able to get results against the Cavaliers, who are the defending national champions.

“I think we proved to ourselves that we can play with anyone in the country,” Flames goal keeper Paul Gilbert said. “Knowing that we can play with the best is one thing, but doing it is completely different.”

Gilbert had two saves against UVa. Saturday Oct. 9 the Flames played in front of a home crowd for a third time this season.

The Panthers were predicted to win the Big South this season and entered the game 9-2-1.

“They’re so explosive,” Alder said. “They’re clearly the best team in our league.”

The Flames executed most things well, but were unable to score goals.

“I thought we did enough in the game other than score to be right there with them,” Alder said.

The team missed a scoring opportunity early in the game, which led to a Panther’s goal off a counter attack giving the Panthers an early 1-0 lead.

According to Alder, this is important to the momentum of the game because the leading team is being chased.  The Flames were not able to catch up.

“We had a lot of chances to get something and didn’t,” Alder said.

The Flames took 14 shots, only two less than the Panthers, but were unable to put any in the net.

According to Alder, the Flames had focused on finishing in practice.

“We should have scored,” Alder said. “You have to score that.”

Alder looks to many of his players to step up and score but Flames forward Darren Amoo leads the Flames this season with 17 goals.

“Obviously Darren Amoo is a marked man, but I feel [we have] got a lot of guys who can score,” Alder said.

Panthers forward Karo Okiomah served up the knock-out with a last minute goal, taking away the last bit of hope away for a Flames victory.

The Flames dropped to 6-4-1 and 2-2 in the conference.

“[We have] got to put it in the rearview mirror,” Alder said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself too long.”

During the game, Dave Verville rallied the fan section to cheer on the team.  He had traveled from Michigan to see his son, junior midfielder Alex Verville.  He was in town for homecoming and said he planned on seeing the Flames play against North Carolina on Tuesday.  Despite the distance, he gets to see Alex play about three or four times a year.

“We’re pretty rabid fans,” Dave Verville said. “We love the school. [It is] a great environment.”

The Flames will play second ranked North Carolina Tuesday, Oct. 12.  North Carolina has been to the final four two years in a row.  Alder anticipates a tough game, but is focused on bouncing back and being ready to compete.

“We approach it like [it is] any other game at this point,” Alex Verville said.

SAWYER is a sports reporter.

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