Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On to the Postseason...

Peter Sanger, a senior on the 2010 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his 12th blog entry.


Following our win over Wright state, we had finally reached the last week of the regular season. On our plate last week was NIU for the Lewang Trophy and nationally-ranked Michigan State.

Knowing we had qualified for the conference tournament definitely put our minds at ease and we started the week off with some much needed recuperation and refocusing.

Heading into the NIU game, we knew that it was much needed that we rest some regular starters in preparation for our conference quarterfinal game the upcoming Tuesday. Unfortunately, similarly to the UW game, we seemed to lack a little bit of focus going into the match. I’m not sure if it was that we were already looking forward to the Horizon League tournament or if it was just one of those nights, but we fell behind quickly Thursday night. Luckily, Cody Banks was on hand to help level the scores midway through the second half, outworking his defender to latch on to Andrew Wiedabach’s through-ball and delicately chip the defender with his left foot for his second goal of the season. Much to our dismay, we fell behind yet again right before half time as the Huskies scored on a direct free-kick from the top of the box.

Although we had been playing well, once again we were behind due to silly defensive mistakes. Unfortunately, this time we didn’t have the great second half we’re used to. It just all fell apart and we ended up losing the game by a lopsided score despite playing some decent soccer at times. Our lack of defensive sharpness and clinical finishing was once again our downfall.

Luckily for us, Saturday was a quick turnaround and we had a top-level opponent to play against. The Spartans of Michigan State had been ranked in the top 10 of the country for most of the year and we knew we were in for a tough challenge. We held tough for the first 40 minutes or so before we went behind 1-0 on yet another set piece goal.

However, this time we didn’t implode and came out in the second half with a renewed vigor and really took the game to MSU. Despite completely dominating the second half, it looked as though we were about to finish our regular season on a sour note. We just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net, until a nice combination of flicks from Tony Maxey and Abe Gibbons found Greg Rosenthal at the far post. Finally, Rosie dispatched the ball into the back of the net with an acrobatic finish, pushing the match into extra time.

You could tell Michigan State was really on their heels and we continued to surge forward in the extra periods. Despite a number of chances, the winning goal eluded us on the day and we finished with a draw.

Later Saturday night, we discovered our fate for Tuesday night’s match. We will be taking on the Loyola Ramblers, at Loyola, kicking off at 7 p.m. On paper it’s a great draw for us, as we’ve already won there before this season, but anything can happen in the conference tournament.

If you have the night off and are looking for something to do, make the reasonable trek down to Chicago and cheer us on in our aim to head to Butler for the conference semifinals and finals.

Today, I just want to go ahead and give some much needed mention to my fellow seniors for going through the roller coaster of a career with me. Although there was only four of us mentioned on Senior Day, my opinion of the senior class includes those who came in with me my freshman year too. This includes Pedro Mejia, Robert Refai, Abe Gibbons, Greg Rosenthal, Aaron Gibbons and then more recently Sol Caceres.

I remember when I first committed to UWM; I was talking to my dad about his experience in college athletics. He told me that by the time my senior season rolled around only a handful at best of my incoming recruiting class would remain. He explained the numerous reasons for why people drop-off along the way: coaching changes, homesickness, academic struggles, the super competitive environment, drinking/drug trouble and more. Even though I could understand all of that, I couldn’t believe that somebody would allow any of that result in throwing away his or her chance at a four-year career.

Soon enough he was proved right though. People had dropped off before our freshman season even began and by the end of freshman year, nearly half of our freshman class was gone. That’s not to say I wasn’t tempted to do the same however. I had never imagined losing the will to show up at practice and to fight for our school out on the field, but slowly but surely it began to happen. The every day grind was starting to take it’s toll, along with a couple of disheartening losing seasons, increasing school load, and a growing contagious case of player discontent.

By the time I found out a shot at a fresh start was in front of me, there was still a doubt of whether I thought it was really worth it to come back for another year. However, the aforementioned senior class was a big reason why I decided to stick it out for another year. When you’re in the trenches with somebody day after day, not only do you become pretty close with people, but you also begin to feel a sense of responsibility with them; a responsibility to show up every day and put in the hard work, because they’re doing the exact same thing for you.

So in the end, not only was I coming back for my final season for me, but also for the rest of the guys that I had spent so much time working towards the same goals with. I honestly wouldn’t have made it through this four years without them, so my full-hearted thanks goes out to Abe, Aaron, Dro, Robert, Rosie and Sol for making the journey with me.

Joga Bonito

Monday, November 1, 2010

November Already?!?

Peter Sanger, a senior on the 2010 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his 11th blog entry.


Following defeat to UIC, we headed into this week with a midweek rivalry game and a must-win conference battle on Saturday night. There wasn’t much time to get working on things between games and it was more of a battle to get recovered and refreshed in time for the next game.

Heading into our game against UW, we knew that once again we’d have to rest some key players. Tony Maxey was rested due to injury and starting forward and leading point getter, Andrew Wiedabach, was left off the game roster. We headed into Madison Wednesday afternoon and by the time the game rolled around it was completely dark, dropping to frigid temperatures, all topped off by some of the strongest winds since I’ve been at UWM.

We started the game poorly and fell victim to two quick-fire counterattack goals as a result of careless turnovers in the midfield. The second half brought about a more spirited performance, but we left Madison knowing we missed a great chance to improve our record and restore some in-state dominance over the Badgers.

Following a silent bus ride back, we spent a little time in the locker room regrouping and refocusing on what’s rest of the season. Wright State became the sole focus for us and everybody knew that we had to win in order to confidently clinch a spot in the conference tournament following regular season play. For the returning players, we felt there was definitely some unfinished business with Wright State after playing to only a draw there last fall. We decided to start the game pressing them high up on the field Saturday night to make sure we came out and started the game well and the match couldn’t have started better for us. We were ahead 1-0 in a record time of around 1 minute and 16 seconds through some smooth interplay from Cody Banks and Andrew, leading to a find 1 v. 1 finish against the goalkeeper from Jordan Record.

We dominated the rest of the half and had some good chances to bury the game, but went into the locker room at 1-0 at half time. Unfortunately, it seemed as if though we let our foot off the gas in the second half and we were forced to grind out the rest of the game. However, when the final whistle blew, the scoreboard read 1-0 for Milwaukee and a win is a win. By the time we regrouped in the locker room, we found out we had punched our ticket into the postseason and were able to celebrate Halloween feeling at ease with our immediate future.

I personally spent my Halloween night out with some of the guys on the team and my girlfriend and I thought I’d attach a picture of myself and some of the guys in their respective outfits.

This week my thanks goes to all the Super Fans that come to all the games and get behind our team and heckle our opponents. This group, led by Jimmy Lemke, has been a mainstay at all home games and also a lot of away games throughout my career and their support goes largely unmentioned. It takes a lot to convince yourself to get bundled up on a Saturday night and bypass parties and local bars to come support your school’s team, but for us players it really gives us an added motivation.

Knowing that your student body is behind you is a huge confidence boost and it felt great to clinch our conference tournament berth in front of them. Thanks again and hopefully we’ll be able to get a conference tournament game at home sometime soon.

Joga Bonito