Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pivotal Times

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his ninth entry of the year.


Though the past couple of weeks haven’t exactly gone as planned, with a current dry spell of scoring and a lack of wins on the schedule, we still have much to play for. As the season dwindles down, each game becomes more important, making each training session revolving around the opponent ahead.

Now placed fifth in the Horizon League, our last game is pivotal for our season's life. With a win, we most likely clinch a spot in the Horizon League tournament, where anything can happen. But, with a loss, we most likely will not go onto the postseason.

Our upcoming and last home match against Northern Illinois will act as an important test in preparation for our last conference match against UIC. Northern Illinois is currently ranked 32nd in the nation and has had a very successful year. A result against this type of opponent is exactly what we need to gain momentum and carry it into Saturday.

This season has not exactly been ideal for the players, coaches and the seniors, but with a result against UIC on Saturday, we have the opportunity to change everything. During the past week the team has truly come together and have all got our eyes on one thing, making sure that everything we do is in the best interest of the team.

After all, they say the conference tournament is the start of a new season, why not start ours a week early?

Hope to see all of you at Engelmann Stadium this Wednesday November 2nd for the last Milwaukee men’s soccer home game and for senior night!

-Aaron #8

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coming Down the Stretch

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his eighth entry of the year.


Following our tie to Detroit, this week’s practice was intense in preparation for the upcoming match, where we would face Wright State - a match that was pivotal in the leagues standings. Saturday night at Engelman Stadium we sat at the top of the league, tied with our opponents.

In front of a packed Engelman Stadium, the match proved to be a fast-paced and full of highlights. The first half was not our best performance, as we went into halftime down. Rejuvenated after a mental check, we quickly got onto the scoreboard in the second half. Senior Robert Refai tallied his 7th goal on the season, continuing his scoring form on the year. Freshman Laurie Bell also tallied his second goal of the year.

The tie was not our preferred result, but coming back in the second half and scoring two vital goals really showed some character. As we get deeper into conference each game becomes more and more important as we strive to reach our ultimate goal of winning conference and making it to the NCAA tournament.

Our next opponent is yet another conference match facing Valparaiso on October 22nd. Hopefully we will be able to come out with another conference win and return home with an important three points.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mid-Conference Action

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his seventh entry of the year.


The last few weeks have been productive for the Panthers, as we are now into mid-conference play. There have been a few valleys to go along with some key peaks on the season that left us at the top of the tables in Horizon League standings.

Our victory over Green Bay was one of the most exciting wins the program has ever witnessed, as junior Cody Banks scored with seven seconds left in double overtime to give us the win over our in-state rivals Green Bay.

The win was only the second of my career against Green Bay and was a fantastic way to regain the Chancellor’s Cup. Now with two cup wins under our belts and two instate victories, leaves only Wisconsin left on the schedule before we are crowned the state’s best.

As conference play moved along we did take a step backwards, as we lost to Cleveland state 3-to-2. The game was not our best performance, as we went down three to zero late in the match. Some positives did come with the loss though, as we fought hard and scored two late goals that lead to an extremely exciting ending.

The next match against Michigan State ended in similar form with a decent performance that just could not get the job done. Senior Robert Refai scored the lone goal of the match for the Panthers.

His sixth goal on the season came in our most recent match facing Detroit. With this sixth goal he solidified himself as the team’s top scorer as well as one of the league leaders.

The road to the conference tournament has begun for the Panthers, as we are now sitting in second place. We will look to continue our success into the season when we face Wright State on November 15th this upcoming Saturday at Engelmann Stadium.

Hope to see you all there!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Conference Play Begins

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his sixth entry of the year.


Once conference starts, it’s the beginning of a whole new season in our eyes. Heading into our Saturday night game against our first conference opponent, we knew it would be a challenge.

Butler had not lost at their home field since 2007, and it felt great to end their streak with a convincing 3-1 victory, and a solid three points.

The game started quickly for us as sophomore Jamie Ashcroft netted his first Panther goal in just the fourth minute. Butler equalized nearly at the halftime mark.

Our second half play was exciting to say the least, as senior Robert RefaI tallied his fourth goal of the season and freshman nick Langford scored his second on the year.

The win was a fantastic confidence booster for the team and we will hope to carry our winning ways into our next conference opponent, Green Bay this Wednesday at Engelman field. H

ope to see you all there as we look for the second conference win and move closer to the ultimate goal of the conference finals.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On to Horizon League play...

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his fifth entry of the year.


We left Milwaukee Thursday morning, confident we could get things back on track after a disappointing result with Northeastern last weekend. With two new Panther opponents in Gardner-Webb and UAB, we felt up to the challenge.

Our travel was complicated by the fact that we had to fly into Atlanta and drive to Birmingham. Traveling is always a fun experience. We are treated like professionals, with the planes, food and activities. Our lengthy travel was rewarded with a really nice hotel. We had a chance to stretch our legs with a short warm-up session on Friday morning and seemed to be ready for our unknown opponent.

Friday’s game against Gardner-Webb was not our best performance. Not sure if it was the heat or our first game on grass for the year, but we struggled to get any rhythm. We could not create much attack and John Shakon again kept us in the match through some tough times.

Parts of the second half were better and a scrappy goal by Nick Langford made us feel like we could take the points. Unfortunately, we continued to lose some physical battles and gave up an equalizer within minutes. Then, a dagger free kick in the 89th minute put us behind. We left the field knowing we didn’t play very good soccer, but even more disappointed that we let the points slip away so late.

On Sunday, going into our second of the weekend we knew we would have our hands full. The host UAB was undefeated and had a big win last week against powerhouse Clemson. While it was nice to be back in warmer weather, the heat seemed to slow our legs. The first half of the game did not go according to plan. It felt like all we did was defend. Shakon kept us in the game with a couple of awesome saves and everyone pitched in to clear balls and cover mistakes.

Coming into the second half we were flying high. Langy drew a foul in the box and Saveedra drilled the PK for a 1-0 Panther lead.

We battled and had some better play in the second half, but could seem to put together a consistent attack. Shakon continued his dominate GK play, until the pressure finally got to us with an equalizing goal with less than five minutes to play. UAB’s tall and athletic defender had come forward to score an incredible far-post header from a long throw.

We were a bit shocked going into overtime - only to have the same UAB player then scored the game winning goals on a near post header five minutes into OT.

We have to find a way to put the poor play and missed chances behind us. Our early non-conference results are the highlight of the young season. Conference play begins this weekend with a game against last year’s Horizon League champion Butler Bulldogs. It won’t get any easier, but we will prepare ourselves well knowing a good result will start conference play with a bang! We will be ready for Butler on the 24th!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Panthers Claim Milwaukee Cup!

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his fourth entry of the year.


It was yet again an eventful weekend, as we came out with a very exciting victory against our biggest rivals, Marquette. It felt great to yet again win the Milwaukee Cup, taking the UWM total win tally over Marquette to 27 overall.

Though the win was a great peak for the weekend, there was a valley, as we suffered our second loss of the season due to a questionable penalty call in overtime.

The game against Marquette was electric. Always my favorite game of the year, the excitement always lives up to expectations. Playing against Marquette is the sort of game every kid dreams about playing in one day. In front of 2,000 fans, under the lights, hoisting the trophy in the air to a collaboration of UWM victory songs is truly an amazing feeling.

Though Friday was a great win, Sunday was a different story for us. It seemed as if a bit of fatigue had hit some of the lineup and our play was not the usual, as we lost 2-1 to Northeastern.

Though we scored the first goal of the game, they were able to equalize and send the game to overtime. Early in the first overtime, a penalty was awarded to Northeastern. As anyone knows who has played soccer at a high level, sometimes the difference between a win and a loss can come down to one single decision or mistake, this was very much so the case in this week’s loss.

A quick note from last week’s practice:

As a senior, I have developed quite the eye for hidden talent, and hidden talent I have seen from a few choice players on our UWM soccer team. Junior Jamie Bladen has truly developed a big soccer kick that is extremely powerful and deadly. He has been booting it very long lately and is showing good promise for the upcoming season. Sophomore Robbie Boyd has also shown some improvement as his soccer kicks are flying into the goal as well! Should be quite the weekend at UAB, and looking forward to two victories from the Panthers!

-Aaron Gibbs #8

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And the Panther Invitational is ours...

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his third entry of the year.


Following a disappointing loss to IPFW, there wasn’t any better way for us to end the weekend than with two solid victories. There were numerous exciting accomplishments that the Panthers earned this weekend, both as a team and individually.

Winning the 37th Panther Invitational was definitely the overall highlight of the weekend. The last time we had accomplished this was back in 2006. It feels good to have won the first trophy of the season. And, with perhaps the most important trophy match on the line this Friday, there’s little time to sit back and enjoy this one.

Not only was winning the Panther Invitational a refreshing feeling, but the style and swagger that the team has started to play with these last two matches is even more exciting, if you ask me. The win over Western Michigan on Sunday marked the first time in my college career that we had scored four goals in a home game and came out on top. This four-goal win was also the greatest margin of a win in my college career. It just goes to show how our hard work and dedication has truly paid off in these first couple of games.

Having two great wins under our belt was a great way to end the week. Though both were exciting, there’s no comparison to the anticipation of the Milwaukee Cup coming up on Friday. Playing against Marquette is always in my opinion the best game of the year. There really nothing like it. The atmosphere and the crowd is always top notch, last year capacity coming to over two thousand.

The Milwaukee Cup not only is known as a rivalry statewide, but nationally as well. College Soccer News posted the game as the 14th-most exciting college rivalry game in the nation, in my opinion should be much higher. Friday’s game is sure to be high intensity, entertaining and a true battle.

Hopefully I will see you all there Friday at Engelman!!!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Season Begins

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his second entry of the year.


The mood throughout the locker room was quiet and full of disappointment Friday night after our season-opening loss. Shock and confusion would pretty much sum up my feelings post game Friday.

Anyone who would have seen the first half and even 25-30 minutes of the second half, despite the goals, would have put their money on the Panthers coming away from the game with a comfortable victory.

We owned possession throughout the whole game, so despite only scoring one goal throughout our numerous chances, this was one positive that came from the match.

Another pleasing aspect that came from Friday's game were the fans, despite the 4:30 start, and not having many students on campus yet, the crowd definitely showed up for the Panthers.

A much welcome army of former UWM players and students did an excellent job of agitating the IPFW keeper from the bleachers behind the goal net, hopefully this group will prove to be regulars this season in accommodating our team throughout the 2011 season.

Though the first match of the season wasn’t the ideal, the season is long, with many games to come. Our next match lands on Friday, September 2nd, facing Western Michigan.

This week’s practice will surely stress the aspects of the game that were absent from our previous match such as finishing our chances, and eliminating silly defensive mistakes. This will surely prepare us for the upcoming game.

Hope to see you all there as we look to take our first victory on Engelmann Field this season!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Preseason Begins...

Aaron Gibbons, a senior on the 2011 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his first entry of the year.


As August rolls around the corner, there is one thought and one thought only on the minds of a UWM men’s soccer player ... Preseason.

While the majority of college students are deeply content, enjoying the perks of a long fun-filled summer, the time has come to report to captain’s practice for us Panthers. As a 5th-year senior, the content to these captains’ practices throughout the years has changed drastically.

Though captain’s practices don’t stress much formal fitness, once coaches' practice begins, players are expected to be in top-notch condition.

The first day of coaches is always the worst from a player’s perspective. The morning session consisted of a 3-mile intervals test. This consists of running three miles with a six-minute rest in between each mile; each mile must be finished before a time of 5 minutes and 30 seconds.

Though player’s fitness varies some, overall the performance was great. This enables the majority of coach’s preseason to consist of a colorful blend of possession drills, attacking/defending variations and foot skills training, all together focusing on putting the final pieces together in preparation for our first exhibition match.

The alumni game was the first on the schedule of exhibitions. While for many schools this match may be looked at as a breeze, the UWM men’s alumni consist of a bundle of professional, ex-professional and even a World Cup 2002 U.S. men’s national team starter. This year the 2011 Panthers took a quick two-goal lead, both coming from junior forward Potato Banks.

The alumni evened the score at two-all late in the match. We quickly responded when a cross was put in the box by senior defender Aaron Gibbons, sent directly to freshman midfielder Laurie Bell, who cleverly flicked the ball past alumni keeper Chris Dadian for the go-ahead and game-winning goal.

The alumni game overall proved to be a success. The three goals was a positive, but the two goals allowed and some sloppy play showed that we still had lots of work to do as the second and final exhibition approach facing Lewis University.

As the squad left the much needed air conditioning of the travel vans upon arrival of Lewis University, the sun was beaming and the legs were heavy. Fatigue was present, but never the less; it was time for the last preseason game. The match was off to a great start again thanks to another fantastic goal from junior Potato Banks. He received a ball from junior defender Ryan Whitehead, just outside the box and sent the ball flying over the Lewis goalkeeper, off the crossbar and into the net.

The second half was full of new Panther faces, as every player on the roster that was able to play, did indeed so. The flow was a bit shaky at times, but proved steady to hold onto the 1-0 advantage all the way through 90 minutes.

As preseason has come to an end, the excitement and anticipation for the home opener against IPFW is growing rapidly. All of the hard work, sweat and dedication has proven unbeaten as we will look to continue this trend into the season.

I am looking forward to sharing the UWM men’s soccer team experience with you all and hope you enjoy reading!