The University of Minnesota, Morris men's soccer team recorded its first regular-season victory over St. Scholastica Saturday and increased a shut-out streak to seven with Sunday's win over Northland College.
It was the Cougars' seventh shutout in seven wins. They improve to 7-3 overall and have not yielded a conference goal this season.
St. Scholastica 0
In a battle of conference unbeatens, and a likely bet to meet again in the conference finals next month, the University of Minnesota, Morris and the College of St. Scholastica tangled on the pitch under slate gray skies in Morris Saturday.
In the men's short four-year history, the Cougars have never beaten the Saints during the regular season. With a possible NCAA tournament at-large bid in the offing, head coach Christian DeVries and his team knew winning would matter greatly at the end of the season.
As it has all season, the Cougars' team skill at possession and passing dictated the pace for Scholastica, who, for much of the game, relied on single breakout attacks that were quickly snuffed out by Morris' backline.
Early in the first half, Mattson Towley went down with a knee contusion and sat out the remainder of the first half. But he returned in the second wearing a brace, just in time to put away a threaded pass from Pat O'Connor, giving UMM a 1-0 lead in the 65th minute.
Scholastica attempted to pick up the pressure from that point, but the Cougars' defense and midfield play thwarted them at every turn. After the game, O'Connor said the defense was the key to victory.
"They stepped up today. They got the ball out of the back and up to us mids. We hold the ball so well up top," he said.
Tyler Weber earned his fourth shutout with four key saves and several more knockaways in goal.
Northland College 0
The Cougar men's soccer team cruised to an easy 5-0 win against Northland College Sunday at home.
The shutout streak and its significance is not lost on the team's followers. Late in the match, the crowd drew a stiff breath when backliners Justin O'Connor and Greg Borchers collided and fell, leaving a Northland player alone and driving toward the goal. Fortunately, captain Patrick O'Connor was able to intercept the player just before he could get off a shot. That was Northland's best attack of the day.
The Cougars took an incredible 56 shots during the game, 24 of those on goal, compared to just eight for Northland (five on goal).
UMM opened the scoring in the 15th minute when senior Brent Diggs chipped in a pass from Kelsey Duerr off a Towley corner kick. It was Diggs' seventh goal of the year.
Fifteen minutes later, first-year player Kyle O'Connor fired a point blank shot at the goalkeeper. It bounced back to O'Connor's feet and he knocked it in for his first goal of the season.
O'Connor, subbing in for midfielder Jeff Lind, made the most of his playing time. Two minutes later he fed an assist to Towley driving down the left side of the penalty box for an easy one-timer in the lower left corner of the net.
"[It's] good to get the goal and assist to relieve the tension. There's a nervousness every time I get out there, so it helps you relax," O'Connor said after the game.
The Cougars maintained a 3-0 lead at halftime and well into the second half when Kelsey Duerr was chopped down inside the penalty box. Pat O'Connor put away the penalty kick for a 4-0 lead.
Duerr scored 10 minutes later when he punched in an unassisted goal in the 80th minute.
Northland's offense was frustrated all game long as they struggled to get through UMM's midfielders.
"We're definitely doing well at working back on defense when the ball's on the weak side. We get back and we mark our men. Then we're getting up and getting on the far post on offense," Lind said.
Next week the Cougars travel to the Twin Cities for games against Northwestern College and Crown. The following week they return home for a pair of games against Martin Luther and Bethany Lutheran.