Blog: Tearing Down the Net w/ Tate McIntyre
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Hello everyone, welcome to my second to last blog of the season. 

With the season winding down and no postseason to speak of, last week provided us for a chance to reach several important goals that Centenary Men's Soccer had set for this season. On Tuesday, our game against Hendrix was our first chance to clinch our 9th win of the season which would ensure a winning record which would be Centenary's first since 2002. Knowing this, the guys and I were in a very good mood  on the trip to Conway, Arkansas as we finally had a chance to achieve something tangible despite being denied a postseason. The weather was rather cool and windy and a traffic jam had us arrive an hour behind schedule, but we took advantage of what time we had and began warm-ups. This was my first game to start at close to 100% fitness after my injury, so I was personally a little more pumped up than usual. Next, the starting lineups were introduced and we took the field in search of win number nine.

For the first few minutes of the match, both teams were somewhat sloppy and there were not many solid possessions. However, we gradually began to take control of the game and started to create a number of chances. Our breakthrough came after about 20 minutes when Marcos Rodriguez slipped the ball at the top of the box and I was able to put a shot into the far corner for a 1-0 lead (and a very nice moment for me). For the rest of the half we dominated and came close to scoring more goals on a number of occasions. The first half ended without a shot on goal from Hendrix. The second half was dominated by Centenary, with Spencer Nickerson furthering our lead to 2-0 by sliding the ball underneath the Hendrix goalkeeper on a counter attack and Brandon Heim ripping a shot into the top corner of the goal from about 35 yards out to put us ahead 3-0. We kept attacking but were unable to score again and left Conway with a 3-0 win, and more importantly a winning season. There were many great individual efforts in this game but overall it was a fantastic team effort. It felt good to have something such as a winning season to hang our hat on after all of the time and preparation that had gone into it.

Despite the great feeling we had taken away from the Hendrix game, we only had three days to prepare for Mary Hardin Baylor, a tough opponent in a game that would allow us to reach another milestone: ten wins for the season. We had a couple of light practice days in between games in order to preserve our bodies, as the season has really begun to wear physically on a number of our players. Friday when we all arrived at the locker room, the attitude was loose (as usual) but everybody seemed a little more excited than usual, as the seniors all knew that it was going to be our last weekend to ever play in front of our home fans and we all planned to make the most of it, regardless of who we were playing. 

The game started perfectly for us as after the usual opening sequences, we were able to take the lead inside 5 minutes as Marcos Rodriguez' diving header off of a throw-in evaded the keeper for a 1-0 lead. The rest of the game was going to be a huge test, as Mary Hardin Baylor was almost a carbon copy of our team from their formation to their record to their individual players. We were able to hang on to the lead for the rest of the match, but not without being tested. Robbie Ramirez collected yet another shutout by making seven saves, and we were out-shot 9-7 in the second half. Hats off to Mary Hardin Baylor, but we were not going to be denied our 10th win of the season in our second to last home game.

In college soccer, no matter what happens in the last game you never have time to dwell on any result too long. We kept this in mind and although we had reached milestones in each of the previous two games, the most important result was going to be the one from senior night on Saturday, the one that our eleven seniors will remember for a long time. There was a different kind of atmosphere Saturday, since the senior night festivities almost overshadowed the game...until the game actually rolled around. After accepting our plaques and meeting our parents in the center of the field, it was time to actually play the game. Despite not having a great record, Howard Payne was one of the most skillful teams that we have played all year and presented a serious challenge.

The first half began with Howard Payne possessing the ball for most of the time and creating a few decent chances to score. At times, I am willing to admit that they even dominated us. However, as the game crept along, we gradually began to assert ourselves more and began to compete. The half ended scoreless and we ended up ahead in most statistical categories. We continued to improve throughout the second half and dominated for long periods, but once again we could not score a goal despite out-possessing and out-shooting Howard Payne, who were not near as threatening in the latter stages of the game. As the second half drew to a close there was a feeling of uncertainty about our team, as we had just seen the Ladies suffer a heartbreaking loss in overtime on their senior night. We rallied together and decided that there was no way that we were going to lose the game and that every individual would do whatever was asked of him to succeed. With that, we headed into overtime.

More of the same pattern of play continued in the first overtime session, with Centenary retaining the ball for long periods and Howard Payne threatening with the occasional counter attack. This went on for ten minutes with still no score and it was then down to ten last minutes for all of the seniors on Mayo Field. In the second overtime period we came out with a little burst of extra energy as we could not fathom going out with a loss or a tie in our last home game. We attacked vigorously and were finally rewarded in the 107th minute when Spencer Nickerson found himself wide open in front of the Howard Payne goal after a slick pass from Marcos Rodriguez, and was able to knock the ball in past the keeper for what was a dramatic overtime victory and one that I will most likely remember for the rest of my life. We chased Spencer around the field and were finally able to bring him down inside the center circle where we swarmed him. Our time at Mayo Field could not have ended any better and I would like to thank everyone that had a hand in senior night for making it so special.

See you all next week for what will be the last edition of my blog.

-Tate McIntyre