By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
Due to NCAA reclassification rules, UNO won’t be receiving an invitation to any post-season party. But the Mavs are doing everything they can to make the rules committee rethink their guidelines.
Saturday at the UNO soccer field, the Maverick offense exploded for four goals en route to keeping an unbeaten conference record and downing Eastern Illinois 4-1. After three games in Summit League play, UNO is 2-0-1 and sit in third place with seven league points.
“We [have] put ourselves in good position right now,” Coach Jason Mims said. “We’ve got to take care of business at home, that’s what I told the guys: win your home games and battle on the road and see what we can get. So far we’ve taken care of our two conference games at home.”
In two home conference wins against EIU and IUPUI, the Mavs have scored six goals and surrendered just one. In four home games UNO is 4-0 and has outscored opponents 13-3.
In all 13 games last season the Mavs scored just a total of six goals.
“The guys came out and played hard and got some goals,” Mims said about his team’s performance against EIU. “It’s always fun to score goals. It’s one thing this team has been doing is scoring goals. That’s the hardest thing to do in soccer is score goals. So to score four in a game we’re pretty happy.”
Against the Panthers, the potent UNO offense wasted no time, making it 2-0 before the game was five minutes old. In the first half the Mavs were playing against a strong northern wind, but showed no difficulty with the conditions.
Redshirt freshman Logan Mendez won a ball in the air from an EIU goal kick and found junior Craig Buettner past the defense. Buettner finished in the lower left corner of the Panther net to make it 1-0.
Buettner’s third goal of the season was followed just 1:27 later by junior Cody Thayer’s first of the season. Jesus Perez recorded his first point of the season, assisting Thayer on a pass from the top of the penalty area.
Thayer chipped Perez’s pass from 20 yards over EIU keeper Garrett Creasor into the top left of the net.
“It was so early I think our guys, it didn’t feel like 2-0,” Mims said about the fast start. “We started so quickly like that I think it felt like it was a closer game. Obviously when you’re down 2-0 the other team feels like they know it’s 2-0 and they’re chasing and pressuring, and so it was hard those last 25 minutes (of the first half).”
Eastern Illinois made it even harder when they added a marker in the 43rd minute. Colin Rook sent a cross in from 30 yards out, and Will Butler got a foot on it in the air to score near the left post.
Playing against a driving wind UNO had the first two scores, equaled the Panthers in shots and controlled the scoring chances. But Butler’s goal with just 2:27 to play in the half made it a whole new match.
“I think it almost, in a funny way, it helped us,” Mims said about EIU’s late first half goal. “They say the worst lead in soccer is sometimes a two goal lead. I think that goal kind of helped us focus a little. The guys kind of came in (to halftime) disappointed, and I think they concentrated a little better in the second half because of that goal.”
With the wind at their backs, and the Panther goal sticking in their minds, the Mavs came out firing. In the second half UNO outshot EIU 14-4 and 4-2 in shots on goal.
Sophomore Felipe da Silva rewarded that effort in the 63rd minute off a corner kick from freshman Chava Garcia. Da Silva put in his second of the year after the ball deflected through several pairs of legs and found his foot at the edge of the box.
Sophomore Vance Rookwood scored his team-leading fourth goal and ended the scoring at 4-1 in the 89th minute. Rookwood fired a hard one in from the edge of the box and watched as it bounced off a defender and just below the crossbar.
Keeper Creasor was forward in the box and Rookwood got a fortunate bounce before Creasor could recover.
“We’ve lost three games this year 3-2 and it’s funny I’ve always been a part of teams that are really, really great defensively,” Mims said. “I’ve always coached teams that are in the top five, 10 defensively. So it’s a little bit different this year. As a coach you never like giving up goals but at the same time I know how hard it is to score goals, and this team is scoring goals. We’re scoring a lot of goals.”
The Mavs offensive attack may take them to a top four spot once is all said and done in conference play. UNO’s seven points are four clear of fourth-place IUPUI with four league games to go.
But regardless of how those last four matches go, the Mavs will be on the outside looking in..
“I think we have a lot of attacking players,” Mims said. “I don’t have a lot of defensive-minded players. We got a lot of players that are young and from their club teams they haven’t really defended a lot. We’re trying to get them to buy into that and defend a little more, but when you’re scoring so many goals it’s kind of hard to take away from that.”