By Phil Brown
Maverick soccer season marked by milestones despite underwhelming finish.
On the night of September 6th, the Maverick soccer team looked like one of the best teams in the nation. Coming off of a big win against then-ranked (but since imploded) Cal Irvine two days previous, which marked their first ever ranked victory in regular season play, the Mavs sized up another Californian opponent in Cal State Northridge.
On that cool autumn night, the Maverick men’s soccer team put an emphatic exclamation point on their newborn status of national competitors with a 4-1 thrashing of Northridge, improving to an undefeated 4-0.
That feeling of national ascendancy would only last until the following week, when they lost away from home at Marquette. And indeed, it was all downhill from there for the Mavs. While they hovered around the top-25 national rankings for a while, and held a national-best home winning streak until deep into October, they never were really able to improve upon that initial feeling.
They turned in an identical league re-cord to last season’s 3-2-1, and were a goal behind the previous overall record, drawing one more match than last season’s 10-5-2. They didn’t manage to achieve last season’s share of the conference regular-season title. Their away form was frustrating: they only snagged a single road win. And for the last eight games, they only won two in total.
They still achieved a number 2 seed in their first-ever Summit League Tournament, and represented themselves well in the league statistically, showing themselves to be one of the more well-rounded sides in the conference. Felipe da Silva and Mark Moulton featured in the Summit League First Team, with three more Mavericks showing up in the Second Team. Fazlo Alihodzic was included in the All-Newcomer Team.
Most of the individual awards, however, were swept by Denver.
While it was annoying to have to play second fiddle to Denver for the whole season, there aren’t many teams in the nation that could truly challenge the Pioneers, who didn’t lose a single game over the entirety of the season, and maintained a truly formidable presence in the Summit, not conceding the merest goal in their last seven matches, including their two tournament games.
More consistency and a better performance down the stretch of conference games and away matches would transform the Mavs from the solid, competent, and competitive Division I team they have become into the nationally-relevant squad the first four games seemed to promise.
For such a young program, even the former is a veritable miracle, and regardless of the middling finish to the season, we can be immensely proud of the milestones the program has achieved this season.
Their first ranked victory against Irvine was earned just a few years after the program was conceived, and Senior Logan Mendez contributed to the win against a storied program having played for the Mav’s very first season in competition.
Nothing should take away from what the UNO athletic department has achieved with their men’s soccer program. It’s a remarkable program, even if this season has left an unremarkable taste in the mouth. Maverick fans and UNO students alike can expect great things to come from this squad.