The IUPUI Jaguars Men’s Soccer team dropped their conference opener on Sept. 23 against the Western Illinois Leathernecks. The game was the Jaguar’s first home game of the regular season. IUPUI headed into their home opener with a dismal 0-6 record. That record now stands at 0-7 after the tough fought loss 2-0.
The match was heavily defensive throughout the entire first half. Neither team could get close enough for a shot on goal. It took until the 21st minute for Western Illinois to finally get a shot off. The two teams played a physical brand of soccer, shoving and elbowing for position on the ball. The officials were quite aware of this as well. Play stopped often to warn players and to hand out the occasional card. Western Illinois controlled the ball for the majority of the beginning of the first half. As the half progressed, IUPUI steadily got more touches on the ball, evening out the possession rate. In the 25th minute, Western Illinois’ goalie almost had the ball stolen from him by an IUPUI player. He managed to kick the ball away, avoiding the Jaguars scoring the first goal of the game. That first goal came in the 32nd minute, but for the Leathernecks instead of the Jaguars. Ben Fiddes put the ball in unassisted from twelve yards out. The remainder of the half consisted of more strong defense, as all offensive approaches were snuffed out.
At halftime, past men’s soccer athletes were honored. The men were invited to eat some home cooked food and catch up with their old teammates. When asked why he deemed it necessary to invite past players back, coach Brian Barnett said, “It’s their sweat equity that was invested into this program over the course of several generations that helped built it to where it is. They didn’t have the virtue of playing in a nice stadium or on this field but because of their work we do have these things today for the players that are currently competing here.”
After the halftime festivities, both teams came out kicking. The game was flipped on its axis to start the half. Both squads were taking shots on goal like it was going out of style. Within minutes, however both teams returned to their usual defensive tendencies, focusing their efforts back on preventing a score. These efforts proved futile for IUPUI as Western Illinois scored off of a free kick. Jacob Bevan put the ball past the keeper, assisted by Fiddes and Jacob Bjornsen. After the Leathernecks’ second goal, the game got even more physical. Yellow cards flashed often as the two gritty teams scrummed for the ball. The Jaguar’s Alan Aguilar received a red and promptly left the game. A man down, the Jaguars limped to the finish line. The two teams traded short offensive possessions and yellow cards until the final horn sounded, signifying a 2-0 loss for the Jaguars.
When asked how it felt playing back at home in Carroll Stadium for the first time this regular season, Jaguar defender Ben Thornton said, “It was fun to be out here again. We had a great showing. Thank you to the alumni’s for showing up, that was special. The fans we had out here were amazing, what a great showing tonight for the IUPUI student body. It was a good atmosphere, great to be under the lights again at home.”
IUPUI is now 0-7 on the season, and 0-1 in Summit League play. Their next game comes Sept. 28th against Northern Illinois, a non-conference opponent. The Jaguars hope to stop their seven game skid and pick up a key victory to get the momentum flowing for the remainder of the conference season.