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Soccer team loses in NCAA tourney

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The Billikens began the NCAA tournament at home against Tulsa on Nov. 20. Tulsa ended their regular season 11-5-3 and was previously defeated by SLU 1-0 in an early-season matchup. SLU dominated time of possession and was on the offensive early, getting a shot on goal within the first three minutes of the game. Both teams were evenly matched in the first half in terms of scoring opportunities with four shots on goal each, but only two of these shots required saves from SLU keeper Sascha Otte and Tulsa keeper Jake McGuire. The half ended in a scoreless draw; senior forward Robert Kristo had two opportunities to put the Billikens up, and senior midfielder Kingsley Bryce and junior forward Francisco Vizcaino had a shot apiece.

The second half began much like the first, with both teams sharing opportunities to pull ahead. The Billikens were able to take advantage of an opportunity in the 62nd minute when Kristo made a play on the ball toward the goal, which was poked in by Bryce from three yards out. Bryce and Kristo beat the defense again in the 87th minute, but this time it was Kristo who had the goal after rocketing the ball into the goal from the far-right corner of the box. This goal would put the Billikens up 2-0, which was the final score of the game.

Both Kristo and Bryce agreed that this second game was much like the first, with the Billikens going up a goal and then holding off Tulsa with their strong defense until the end of the game, but Bryce did comment that he felt that the team had grown a lot since their first meeting. Being the Billikens’ last home and the last home game ever for both Kristo and Bryce, they both had comments on the emotions they felt after the victory.

“It is a hell of a memory to go out on. They are a top team in America, and the way they play is not easy to beat,” Kristo said.

“[The game] meant a lot to me … I did everything that I could today, and I know we all did. We all wanted it, and the people that came off the bench showed just as much heart as anybody else,” Bryce said.

After the home victory, SLU went on to play No. 13 Louisville on their home field on Nov. 23, in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Billikens had previously beaten Louisville (10-7-3) in an early-season game, 1-0. SLU went up 1-0 in the 68th minute, when Vizcaino handled a header off of a rebound that ricocheted off the Louisville goalie, originally shot by junior defender Filip Pavisic on a corner kick. Louisville quickly responded, in the 71st minute, when Andrew Brody scored his third goal of the season, from short range. It seemed that the 1-1 score would hold, sending the game into overtime, but with 3:43 left in the game, Tim Kubel scored to give Louisville the 2-1 victory.

This loss ended the Billiken’s season with a record of 14-5-2. Freshman goalie Sacha Otte ended the season with two miraculous saves, one in the 16th minute on a breakaway, and the other five minutes later, after Ricardo Velazco sent a line drive toward the goal.

“It would have been nice to have more chances, but part of that was Louisville being good with the ball and not turning it over,” head coach Mike McGinty said, after analyzing the game statistics, specifically the fact that Louisville topped Saint Louis in shot opportunities 10-6.

“I thought we started the game, in the first 20 minutes, pretty lively. We created a few more chances in the first half. I think as the game went on, we kind of ran out of gas. We had a couple of guys go down with injuries, so it was tough by the end of the game,” McGinty said.

This season-ending loss means a few things for the Billikens. Most of the team will return next year, but key senior players Raymond Lee, Anthony Manning, William Hidalgo, Josh Kohring, Kristo and Bryce will all be leaving. It will be up to the younger players to step up and fill the huge shoes of the seniors for next season, but they will still have guidance from such players as Marco Heskamp and David Graydon.

The Billikens should be proud of their accomplishments this season, including being undefeated on their home field and having multiple players receive prestigious awards, and they should look forward to the potential of this team going into next season.

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Soccer team loses in NCAA tourney