By Phil Brown, Reporter
Five months ago, back on the 8th of November, history was made for UNO and the men’s soccer program.
On that Saturday evening, Caniglia Field witnessed Head Coach Jason Mims’ Mavericks clinch the pro-gram’s first, and so far, only, share of a conference championship. Beating IUPUI in a satisfying 2–1 performance put the Mavs on top of the Summit league and guaran-teed at least a share of the top spot, no matter how the remaining road games panned out.
It was a fitting end to the season, a season that saw the four-year-old team throw down with giants in the college soccer world, such as Stanford and UCLA, and flex a goal-scoring muscle that wasn’t as evident in past seasons.
In that final IUPUI match, the last conference home game for the Mavs’ seniors, the stalwart senior Vance Rookwood came through one last time for the Mavs, scoring in the early minutes of the game. His fellow upperclassman, Felipe da Silva, finished the job with about 20 minutes to go.
After such a successful season, the question now becomes: “What next?” Can the team, bereft as they will be of the past season’s seniors like Rookwood and da Silva, come back and go even further in the fall?
There’s no further to go when it comes to the conference title, but the Mavs were denied participation in the conference tournament and their chance at the national tournament due to NCAA rules.
It’s impossible to predict where the team will be in seven months when November 8 rolls around again, but Mims and the Mavericks are already hard at work to bridge that gap.
The Mavs scheduled a six-game spring season to give the players more playing time and a chance to keep in game-playing shape over the long offseason. While the matches are made up of unofficial,
“friendly” games, and don’t affect standings in a league or points on a table, the team put together a pretty impressive string of teams to play against, including two pro teams: Oklahoma Energy and Minnesota United.
The team kicked off the spring schedule last month against the Energy. Oklahoma City Energy FC competes in the USL-Pro, a league that is ostensibly third-ti-er in the United States’ nebulous soccer system. Energy FC are just starting out as a pro side, playing their inaugural season last year to a 10th place finish.
The Mavs played them in a pre-season game last year as well and lost 1–0. This time around, unfortunately, found a similar result.
When the two met again last month, the side that does it for a living was again victorious, this time to the tune of 3–0. While it’s always tough to lose by that much, the payoff in getting another game under the belts of the squad is probably worth suffering a three-goal loss.
The Mavericks then returned home to face a side from neighbors Midland University. This particular outing had a much happier result, with the Mavs triumphing with four goals to Midland’s one. Mark Moulton, Xavier Gomez, Emir Ali-hodzic and Logan Mendez came through for the Mavs to emphatically resolve this particular “friendly” turf war.
The biggest game in the preseason came just a couple of weeks ago on April 4, where the Mavs traveled to Minnesota to face Minnesota United FC, who play as a pro team in the NASL, which is cut above the USL-Pro in terms of competition. Notably, Minnesota United has committed to transitioning to the MLS in a couple of years, which is the premier pro soccer organization in the nation at the moment.
This made the Mavs’ result all the more remarkable. UNO’s team stymied the pro squad, which includes U.S. National team member Miguel Ibarra, and finished the game in a draw at 1-1.
While again, the result means little to nothing in terms of concrete results, it is nonetheless remarkable that a college team was able to neutralize an MLS-bound club to this extent. Emir Alihodzic scored the goal for the Mavericks, and secured for them a neat little memory, if not a concrete spot in a league table.
The latest game was a few days ago when the Mavericks traveled up to Denver to meet the University of New Mexico. The New Mexico Lo–bos are a fairly prestigious team, routinely winning their C-USA conference championship and ad–vancing as far as the national tour–nament Final Four in recent years.
The Mavs were unfortunately met with defeat in Denver, falling 1–0. Though goal-less, the Mavs put forward some good efforts, notably from Alihodzic and Moulton.
There are two more games remain–ing on the spring schedule, and both will be played at home on Caniglia Field on April 24. At 6 p.m., the Mavs will face Northwestern College, and following that, will play another match against Bellevue University, which is scheduled for 8 p.m.
The Mavs are sure to give another impressive effort to end the mini-season, and give UNO soccer fans something to tide them over for the next seven months.