Men’s Soccer Grinds Out Gritty Win Against Muskingum

Rosa Spurgeon

Contributing Writer

 

Saturday evening’s matchup between the Wooster Fighting Scots and the Muskingum University Muskies had all the makings for a frenetic and fast-paced affair. The Fighting Scots were riding high after a win against Heidelberg University, but still eager to string together a comprehensive performance. Meanwhile, the Muskies had proven to be a hard-nosed team, often blurring the line between physical and foul play. They totaled 14 yellow cards and four red cards throughout their first five games of the season. Both of these factors came into play as the Fighting Scots met the Muskies on Saturday night at Muskingum’s North Athletic Turf Field. 

The Fighting Scots returned home with another win after defeating Muskingum University. Max Wiley ’25, assisted by Luca Napora ’24, scored the game-winning, and only, goal of the game, bringing home a 1-0 win for the Wooster men’s soccer program. First-year rising star Wiley said, “We had a great team win on Saturday. It wasn’t always pretty, but everyone put in the work and we got the job done. That is something special about our group this year. We’re all working towards a goal that’s bigger than ourselves. As a freshman, it gives me confidence knowing that everyone in the locker room has my back.”

The defense stood out in Saturday’s game — goalkeeper Jason Prather ‘24 did not have to save a single shot out of the five attempts made against Wooster. Muskingum did not even register a single shot in the second-half, as the back-line stood strong.. With fifth-year BJ Tally ’22 at left back, Junior Jack Whitehouse ’23 at right back, and a center back pairing of senior Caleb King, ’22 and fifth-year captain Dani Halbing ’22 they were able to shut down Muskingum’s offensive plays. Prather, coming off yet another game in which he played all 90 minutes, commented, “I think this win was big for us. We didn’t play our best game and we played a really physical and determined team, but were still able to not only keep a clean sheet, but get the win. These are the games we have to win if we want to solidify ourselves as a top tier program. So while we can definitely do better, we are happy to get the win and keep moving.”

The Fighting Scots had a rough start as Muskingum tried to play the game at a slower pace. Once the Scots were able to pick up their intensity, they scored their only goal of the game in the 27th minute. Sophomore midfielder, Luca Napora ’24, assisted this goal and said, “It was a good win but a frustrating game. We had a lot of good chances but could only convert one. Still nice to get a clean sheet and we go on to the next game.”

Wooster’s build-up play proved to be adequate and capable of creating chances as the Fighting Scots frequently found themselves in positions to threaten the Muskingum goal. However, the final product was lacking for the majority of the evening until Wiley provided the much needed breakthrough to relieve the previously scoreless Scots. Throughout the preliminary stages of this season, Wiley has often served as the Fighting Scots’ locksmith capable of crafting solutions to the toughest defenses. This season, Wiley has grabbed headlines by scoring four goals, two of which were game winners, and adding an assist as one of Wooster’s brightest young stars. 

With the Scots having 17 shot attempts and only scoring one goal, will they be able to produce enough to score against teams with equally formidable backlines? 9 of those 17 shots were actually on the goal, leaving Muskingum’s goalkeeper with 8 saves. In the early stages of the season, the defense has proved sturdy; the looming question is whether or not the attack can follow suit and finish chances when they are called upon. 

With the Fighting Scots currently at a winning record of 6-2, things are looking good for the rest of the season. The team currently includes six fifth-year students who came back in order to compete for one last year after the unfortunate inability to have a season last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifth-year captain Dani Halbing ’22, who has returned to Wooster for one last semester, commented, “This season has gotten off to an incredibly positive start for us. Our preseason was high intensity as usual, and it was impressive seeing how the freshman class fit into that practice environment as quickly as they did. Off the field we are very tight knit as well, we have an unmatched family feel within our group that provides the vulnerability and trust that any team needs in order to build towards success.” 

The Scots next play in front of their home fans on Black and Gold Weekend against Wabash College on Saturday, Sept. 25