A Midwestern roadtrip awaits Dartmouth men's soccer
The Dartmouth men's soccer team (2-6-1, 1-1-1 Ivy) is packing its bags and heading for the Midwest. But this will be no vacation, however, as the Big Green has two difficult non-conference games scheduled in a weekend that will set the tone for the last four weeks of the season.
Dartmouth squares off against the University of Wisconsin tonight in Madison before travelling to Peoria, Ill. for a Sunday afternoon affair with the 10th-ranked Braves from Bradley University.
The Big Green, still very much alive in a hotly-contested Ivy League, is looking to build on last weekend's performance against Yale and hopes two games outside of the conference will build some momentum for the stretch run.
"Without the pressure of an Ivy game, we'll really be able to enjoy our play, feel loose and get all our pieces clicking," co-captain Matt Miller '03 said.
"Accomplishing that could really propel us through our run at the league title."
If that wasn't enough motivation, add in the factor that this weekend will be a homecoming of sorts for a large contingent of the Dartmouth squad.
Four seniors on the squad grew up in the Midwest. Their friends and family will be on hand to support the Big Green, and will help ease the usually hostile environment of a road game.
The group includes Miller, who grew up in Wisconsin, Minnesota natives Scott Lish '03 and Juan Romera '03, and Mike Vidmar '03, who hails from Chicago. Don't think that the chance to impress the locals isn't on the minds of these Midwesterners.
"I've been waiting for the chance to bring my boys to the Midwest for so long now," Miller added. "I'm really excited, it's a place that really appreciates play with true grit, and I know they'll be impressed by what we can bring."
Unfortunately for Miller and his mates, there are two imposing teams on the weekend itinerary that would like nothing better than to spoil this homecoming.
Nationally ranked earlier in the season, the Badgers enter tonight's game with a 7-6 record (1-2 Big Ten). Wisconsin dropped a midweek game to No. 11 UW-Milwaukee but posted an impressive 2-1 win against No. 20 Penn State two weeks ago. The Badgers are led by a potent offensive trio of Nick Van Sicklen (six goals, four assists), David Martinez (three goals, three assists) and Phil Doeh (four goals).
The task only gets harder on Sunday afternoon against the 10th-ranked Braves. Bradley enters the weekend undefeated (11-0-3) and in first place in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Braves are 3-0-1 this season against ranked teams with the lone tie against MVC rival and fifth-ranked Southern Methodist University.
Bradley has beaten then-No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 7 Furman and No. 23 Tulsa on the way to its 14 game unbeaten streak. Sunday's meeting will be the first between the two schools. Bradley is 1-1-1 in previous match-ups with teams from the Ivy League, including a 3-0 win earlier this season against Cornell.
This weekend will be the last chance for Dartmouth to fine tune things in the setting of non-conference play before running the gauntlet that is the heart of the Ivy League schedule. Four of the Big Green's final six games after this weekend are Ivy League showdowns.
Dartmouth currently sits a half game out of a three-way tie for second place and a game and a half behind Penn who leads the league at 2-0. With four games remaining in a very even league, anything can happen, and the Big Green would love to get the stretch run kicked off with two solid non-conference performances this weekend in the Midwest.
NOTES: Two gets you one
Striker Scott Darci '05 was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his efforts against Yale last weekend. The sophomore from Marblehead, Mass. notched two first-half goals helping the Big Green on its way to a 2-2 tie against the Bulldogs.