Men’s soccer drops first two games against tough opponents

by Danielle Okonta | 9/11/17 2:05am

Dartmouth men’s soccer began its season with two big-time opponents: No. 13 Michigan State University on Sept. 1 and the University of Michigan on Sept. 4. The Big Green suffered a pair of 1-0 losses in what team members knew would be tough matchups.

Both Michigan teams were able to contain Dartmouth’s offense.

The Spartans, who returned the core of last year’s NCAA tournament team, matched the Big Green shot for shot. Both teams took nine apiece, but only one connected: a four-yard chip-in from Michigan State’s DeJuan Jones.

“We let in a goal at the end of the first half, and we couldn’t find a way to break them down despite our better chances with this team,” midfielder Justin Donawa ’19 said.

Against Michigan, a team ranked just outside the top 25, the Wolverines took 18 shots to the Big Green’s six. In the end, Dartmouth’s own defensive mistake proved critical.

“We were able to hold our ground defensively for most of the game, and then we let in a late goal in the 82nd minute,” Donawa said. “We didn’t have much time to respond despite our best efforts.”

At both games, the Big Green faced home crowds which exceed the average attendance at Burnham Field. Officially, the Michigan State game — the Spartans’ home opener — brought out 3,515 fans.

Midfielder and team co-captain Matt Danilack ’18 noted that it is routine to play top-tier teams at the start of the season because it introduces the team to challenging matchups that prepare them for bigger games later in the season.

“We want to schedule our out-of-conference opponents for the first few games of the season because it tests the character of the team from the beginning,” Danilack said. “We learn a lot about our team in the process, and in the end that’s enough to get us excited for the rest of the season.”

Preseason All-American defender and team co-captain Wyatt Omsberg ’18 had a few pointers to help the team going forward.

“We need to be a little bit sharper in our own two-thirds of the field, play more aggressively and avoid limiting our chances,” Omsberg said. “As the season goes on, I believe we will definitely be able to accomplish this.”

Taking close losses early in the season has allowed the players to reflect on what the outcomes reveal about the team’s potential.

“When we see these 1-0 losses we know what we are capable of,” Donawa said. “We can compete with these teams and beat these teams. Looking at the outcome of the game early in the season, I believe that later in the season this matchup or similar ones may end in victory for us.”

The opening losses are part of the larger arc of the past three seasons, during which the team has won three Ivy League Championships and advanced as far as the second round of the NCAA tournament. Big Green players are focused on what it will take to keep the league title in Hanover for a fourth-straight year.

“I want to be able to play the best game that I can from the back [defensively], protect our goal and help the team win,” Omsberg said.

Danilack, the senior All-Ivy midfielder, also has leadership on his mind.

“Our three principles are brotherhood, legacy and sacrifice,” Danilack said. “Brotherhood is the core of it all and helps set the foundation for our team.”

Over the weekend, Dartmouth earned its first victory of the season, a 1-0 overtime win over Hartford University. Defender Matt Ranieri ’21 scored his first collegiate goal, assisted by Donawa and Eduvie Ikoba ’19. This Tuesday, the Big Green returns to Burnham to play the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!