By Avery Wenck, Asst. Sports Editor
It was a great start to conference play for the Mavericks as they defeated Eastern Illinois 1-0 Saturday night at Caniglia. It was an exciting night on campus as the university threw a tailgate an hour before kickoff. The tailgate and promotion for the game attracted 1,000 fans, the most at Caniglia for a men’s game.
Omaha came out of the gates flying last night as they completely dominated possession against a 2-5 EIU squad. Jason Mims’ men were sent out with a game plan knowing that the Panthers were going to park two busses, and they reaped the benefits in the end.
The Mavericks held possession well in the first half, not allowing the Panthers to retain the ball and winning it back in the midfield when they lost it. There was a lack of a cutting edge, with both teams struggling to get the final ball to cut the opposition’s defense open. While it was surely frustrating for the Mavs, they pressed on and kept getting chance after chance.
The defense for the Mavericks proved to be the difference, with veteran centrebacks Nick Miller and Felipe da Silva acting as an iron curtain in front of Ghitis’ goal. Those two seniors have been dominant at the back for Omaha having started every game this season.
The second half was all the same for the Mavericks as they dominated play but just couldn’t break down a stout Panther defense. The Maverick attack forced EIU goalkeeper Mike Novotny to make two saves in the second half and began to ask more questions of the Panther defense as the game wore on. Just as you thought this defense was too tough to break through, sophomore striker Christian Garcia dropped deep into the midfield to receive the ball.
Garcia turned, had a touch, then delivered a delicious ball over the top to senior Vance Rookwood, who brought it down and finished low with his left foot. Mims praised his strike partnership: “Class goal and class pass by Christian. Those guys made that play look really easy. The goal couldn’t have come at a better time for the Mavericks, and they deserved their lead and the three points on the day.
Mims was upbeat about his side’s performance, despite having a difficult game, saying: “It wasn’t our best performance, but the game was never in doubt. We controlled the game from the opening whistle, and it was a tough game. Those guys worked really hard and sat in really deep and we haven’t had many teams come in here and sit really deep. I think it took our guys awhile to figure it out but once we did we created enough chances to win the game.”
The Mavericks go on the road the next three weekends against conference opponents Oral Roberts, Western Illinois and non-conference opponent Bradley before returning home to face preseason no. 1 Denver.