Senior drive men’s soccer’s early success

TJ Farrell

The senior leadership for the Wildcats was alive and well on Sunday, as the men’s soccer team defeated Stony Brook, 2-1, in thrilling fashion. 

The three senior starters, Michael Manta, Sean Sheridan and Randy Falk, along with Dami Adetola off the bench, were true examples of how seniors should play the game. 

The three starters seemed to be in tune with each other all day long. They worked a perfect triangle of passing with each other on multiple occasions, resulting in Sheridan turning towards the middle of the field with the ball or Manta and Falk dribbling the ball through open space along the sidelines.

Even though none of the seniors scored or recorded an assist, they were as vital to the team as anyone on Sunday afternoon. The experience of the senior class will not show up in the box score, but it was the key to the Wildcats’ comeback. 

A quick second half score by the Seawolves after a scoreless first half did not faze the experienced group; in fact it fired them up.

 They were more vocal and aggressive. Falk was an animal on the defensive line, seemingly stopping traffic through the middle and his side of the field. His senior counterpart Manta, who was fearless in pursuit of every ball that came his way, locked the other side down. Manta did a tremendous job all day of switching the field and delivering perfect passes to the sidelines. 

Both senior defenders solidified the defense and allowed the offense to form their shape and create opportunities. 

Sheridan, playing defensive midfield, was the heart and soul of the Wildcats’ comeback versus the Seawolves. He was everywhere on Sunday, winning nearly every 50-50 ball that came his way. Although he did not find the back of the net on the offensive side, he was a key factor in setting up sophomore John Jlopleh’s game-tying goal in the 68th minute.

The goal was a beautiful one, set up by patience and perfection. Adetola found himself swarmed by red jerseys on the edge of the 18 when he quickly dished off a pass to fellow senior Sheridan. 

That was when Sheridan smartly swung the ball to the outside, finding sophomore Christopher Bared open and ready to cross the ball into the box. The precise cross found Jlopleh, who headed a strike into the bottom right corner of the net. 

The connection between the two seniors Adetola and Sheridan in a very pressured area at a crucial point in the action was the execution of veteran players seeing the whole field, not just the current play. 

The Wildcats tacked on the game-winning goal when a Seawolves player headed the ball into his own net with 40 seconds remaining in the game. The own goal sealed the 2-1 victory for the ‘Cats and sent the large crowd on hand home happy.

Since the current senior class arrived on campus their freshman year, the Wildcats have thrived playing in front of the ’Nova Nation.   The squad is now 18-8-4 at home since the start of the 2012 season. Also, the win on Sunday completed a perfect record of 4-0 against the Seawolves since 2012.  The seniors will lead the team to Indiana for their next contest, at date with the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday at 7 p.m. 

The game will be the first Big East matchup of the season for the Wildcats, as they open up conference play against the team with the second best record in the conference.