On Friday, Oct. 7th, IUPUI was faced with the daunting task of playing the conference behemoth, University of Denver. Denver has yet to lose this season, and is currently ranked No. 7 in the national polls. The Jaguars entered the game in desperate need of a conference win, and the Pioneers came in looking to maintain their perfect record and build their momentum.
From the opening whistle, IUPUI played with a reckless abandon. The Jaguars maintained possession of the ball almost exclusively throughout the first 10 minutes of the match. The effort shown resulted in key takeaways from Denver, and almost seemed to rattle them. IUPUI made sure every pass reached it’s intended recipient, and every movement had a purpose. Denver was startled by this outstanding set of plays by the Jaguars, and as a result made a myriad of mental mistakes early.
“We’re in conference and we are playing at home,” said Jags defender Nick Anderson. “We’re playing Denver and they’re a big team and we are looking to get to the tournament. We’re holding on by a limb right now. We have to be able to come out and get some kind of results, and that’s really what we are trying to do right now.”
IUPUI kept up their offensive ways, but unfortunately so did Denver. The two teams traded legitimate offensive possessions. The goalkeepers were tested with numerous shots on goal. Denver still looked sloppy with the ball, but made up for it with their superior athleticism. On defense, the Pioneers were stifling. Every Jaguar in possession of the ball drew a double team.
IUPUI was now struggling to make approaches. The deadlocked score remained until the 29th minute when Denver’s defenseman AJ Fuller scored, assisted by Reagan Durk. Denver had finally settled down offensively and put one past the IUPUI goalkeeper, and the effects were imminent. The outstanding effort the Jaguars put forth early was taking its toll in the form of fatigue, and the goal by Denver took the wind out of their sails.
As such, IUPUI picked up two yellow cards before the halftime, their effort now turned to aggression. Denver continued their outstanding offensive possessions, which were almost always kicked away by Jaguar defensemen. When the horn sounded, signifying halftime, IUPUI trailed Denver 1-0.
IUPUI showed outstanding heart and hustle in the first half to keep pace with their potent conference foe. The question was, could IUPUI keep up the effort in the second half against a Denver offense that had settled into its comfort zone?
Early in the first half, both Denver and IUPUI had serious scoring opportunities. Denver had a free kick just barely caught by IUPUI’s goalkeeper. IUPUI had a shot sail just over the crossbar. IUPUI was undoubtedly keeping their effort up. But then, Denver tightened their grip. Denver offensive possessions seemed to take hours. They were bleeding the clock, passing the ball back and forth, preventing IUPUI from getting any more legitimate scoring opportunities. This method of play from the Pioneers frustrated IUPUI, and that showed with two more yellow cards awarded to Jaguars.Christian Soto received his second yellow of the night, resulting in immediate ejection. The Jaguars were forced to finish the game shorthanded.
The Jaguars were stricken with injuries on the evening, the bigger opponent Denver taking their toll on the IUPUI athletes. After a few last unfruitful shot attempts by IUPUI, the final horn sounded. Denver escaped with a 1-0 victory. IUPUI gave them a battle throughout, but in the end Denver was simply too athletic.
Next up, IUPUI plays out of conference Cincinnati. Cincinnati has scored more than one goal in a game seven times this season, making them a serious offensive threat. Looking to that next game, Coach Brian Barnett said, “If there is anything our team has done well recently, we have limited the amount of dangerous goal scoring opportunities that we have given to our opponents. We have gotten out shot and we have gotten out possessed in some areas, but our defense has been very stingy not to give up dangerous goal scoring opportunities.”
The Jaguars take on Cincinnati Wednesday Oct. 12 at home.