Pablo JuarezSports Editor
Saher AqeelMercury Staff
Men’s squad looks to bounce back from late season slump in first rounds
An unassisted shot from the left side zipped past LeTourneau’s keeper, finding the back of the net. The lone goal of the evening secured a Comets victory on Oct. 17, extending the team’s shutout streak to five in a row and making it their ninth overall consecutive win, tying the program record.
Riding the high of the winning streak, junior defender and captain Sam Konstanty said complacency marred the following weekend’s games.
Opening goals by Ozarks and UT Tyler in the first half on Oct. 22 and 25, respectively, saw the Comets playing catch-up for the remainder of each match — something that had happened only once all season previously. They tied with Ozarks 1-1 and lost to UT Tyler 3-2.
“We thought we were the best team in the conference,” Konstanty said. “We got a bit lazy and stopped working hard. We thought these wins would just come to us.”
With the post-season approaching, the team said those games served as a wake-up call for an attitude adjustment if the Comets plan on claiming the ASC crown.
“We have to stay consistent,” sophomore forward Danny Meyer said. “We just have to come out every week and play intensely and let our skills takeover.”
Head coach Jason Hirsch has voiced a similar sentiment since the beginning of the season.
“Every team can beat any team,” he said.
The Comets (14-3-2, 7-1-1) finished second in the ASC. The teams with the top six conference records make the ASC tournament — with the top two teams earning first round byes.
The team ranks third in goal against average and is tied for the most shutouts in the ASC, with .65 and 5, respectively. Konstanty explained that with the team escaping major injuries to their starting eleven, as compared to previous seasons, they have been able to establish continuity, especially on the defensive end. “When I was a freshman, we were plagued with injuries and I feel like the starting eleven changed game to game,” he said. “The back four hasn’t really changed very much throughout this season. So it’s always good to know where the other players are going to be — (knowing) when to step or when to drop.” The continuity has led to a further development of chemistry both on and off the field.
“I think this year is different in that we’re much closer off the field,” Konstanty said. “I definitely feel like this is a family. In past years, maybe it’s because I was younger, but I didn’t feel the team was as close as they are this year. So that’s really helped the chemistry on the field.”
A familiar foe sits atop the conference standings. UT Tyler blemished the Comet’s conference record, handing them their only ASC loss of the season. Despite the loss, the team’s confidence remains unmoved.
“To be honest, we’re not really afraid of any of these teams,” Konstanty said. “We’ve beaten everyone in our conference so far. We’re not afraid of (UT Tyler), we just had about twenty minutes of bad soccer.”
Taking a game-by-game approach is something Hirsch has reinforced to the squad throughout the season. Meyer said keeping their foot on the gas pedal is one thing the team needs to consistently do in their bid for the ASC title.
“There was a game earlier this season against Austin College where we should have beat them,” he said. “That was a team we were better than … we let them stay in the game and then we ended up tying it. That’s something we can’t let happen. We have to come out and just beat teams.”
After being on the wrong end of two elimination games in the past two seasons, Konstanty explained what sets apart the conference tournament from the regular season.
“Everyone is going 100 miles per hour,” he said. “There’s a little bit more nerves, but it’s fun. It’s exciting knowing everything is on the line. Coming out with a win is the only way we continue to play that season and that’s definitely what motivates me because I hate the season being over.”