Fresh from their trip to Costa Rica, the University of Nebraska at Omaha men’s soccer team began their season this weekend in the South Omaha Classic exhibition game against #10 University of Washington. Originally scheduled for 6 p.m., thunderstorms caused the start time to be pushed to 7:40. Similar events occurred last year in Omaha’s August exhibition game against Stanford when the game was postponed for a few hours. Nonetheless, the Mavericks overcame the delay and late game fatigue to top Washington in a shootout, 5-3.
With sophomore Joseph Ghitis starting in net, the Mavericks thwarted Washington’s attack for the entire first half, allowing just two shots. Despite a near miss by Washington’s leading scorer Darwin Jones, the Huskies couldn’t capitalize on their efforts near the goal.
At 6 feet 7 inches, Washington’s goalie Ryan Herman seemed to occupy the net with a certain authority. The redshirt senior was the starter from the 2013 season in which Washington made the Elite Eight.
However, Omaha put the pressure on Herman early with several shots on goal in the first half. Omaha’s Emir Alihodzic put the Mavericks on the board early in the game with an 11th minute goal.
Washington’s inability to score coupled with the unexpected Maverick goal boiled into several frustrated fits of pushing and shoving. Omaha was quick to fight back. The Mavericks held their own and took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
As the rain came and went, occasionally drizzling the 1,500 fans in attendance, it seemed they got their money’s worth after halftime, as the second half displayed a flurry of action.
Within two minutes, three goals were scored. Fazlo Alihodzic scored in the 51st minute, extending the Maverick lead to 2. 34 seconds later, transfer Kevin Correa netted the Mavericks third goal on a cross from Michael Jaime. The crowd was still celebrating Correa’s goal when Washington’s Josh Heard snuck a deflected shot past Omaha goalkeeper Josh Christensen to put the Huskies on the board.
Following the early frenzy, things settled down for the next half hour, with relatively even play and no goals, leaving Omaha with a 3-1 lead.
With fans chanting “I believe that we will win” with eight minutes left to play, it appeared as if Omaha had the upset in the bag. Statcasters and journalists in the press box groaned when they heard the chant with so much time left. Just last year, the Mavericks lost to Santa Clara after leading 2-0 late in the game. They also lost to #20 Stanford last year on a 90th minute goal. With another big time west coast team in town, those who had watched the team last year didn’t quite feel as comfortable with the lead.
An 83rd minute goal from Washington’s James Nosack drew some gasps from Maverick fans. Three minutes later, fans were clutching their heads in disbelief as the Huskies’ Justin Fiddes netted the equalizer. Omaha had squandered a 3-0 lead and although they were tied with a top 10 team, this felt like a loss.
Since it was a friendly match, the form of overtime was up for discussion between the coaches. To the fans’ delight, they decided on penalty kicks. First team to five goals wins. Ghitis blocked Washington’s first shot and the Mavericks went on to make all five for the shootout victory, 5-3. Mark Moulton netted the game-winner and proceeded to slip out of his jersey and into the arms of his elated teammates.
Despite allowing a disappointing comeback, the Mavericks played with, and outshot, a nationall ranked top-ten team.
The Mavericks are back in action on Caniglia Field this Friday at 7:30 when they play host to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.