When UTD men’s soccer coach Jack Peel scheduled the Division III defending national champions for an early-season match-up, he said he knew what he was bargaining for.
In exchange for some high-level game experience against Trinity, the Comets risked losing and losing big.
For the first 40 minutes, though, the Comets hung with Trinity, matching a early Tiger goal with newcomer Rory Rahn’s strike. However, after Trinity put away a penalty kick at the end of the first half, UTD never threatened again.
In a sixteen-minute span early in the second half, Trinity found the back of the net six times en route to a 10-1 victory.
“One of the things Trinity did is every mistake we made, they pounced on it. We need to stay in every minute of every game. We need to punish people for making those same mistakes,” Head Coach Jack Peel said, turning the blowout loss into a teaching tool.
The Trinity match was the culmination of UTD’s five-game non-conference schedule, which left the Comets with a 2-3 record entering American Southwest Conference play.
UTD opened its season with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to NAIA power Northwood in double overtime. The Comets led for most of the contest, converting 40 shots into two goals before halftime.
Northwood stormed back in the second half, tying the game with less than a minute left in regulation.
In the second overtime period, Northwood snuck a header from a corner kick past freshman goalie Kevin Atnip to secure the victory.
Atnip, an All-State keeper from Houston’s Cyprus High School has made a good transition to soccer at the collegiate level, Peel said.
“Even if you look at the Trinity game, he was phenomenal though he gave up a lot of goals. I think he’s made a good adjustment,” he said.
A corner kick in overtime doomed UTD in its second match of the season, as the Comets fell to Oklahoma Baptist (OBU) 2-1 Sept. 3.
Sophomore forward Samir Chaouche put the Comets on the board first, but OBU managed to even the score by halftime and win in OT.
The following day, UTD used tallies by senior forwards Ali Morshedi and Petar Tomov in the first half and a strike by junior midfielder Kevin Baxter in the second frame to fend off St. Gregory’s.
“OBU is a very talented and experienced team. We made one mistake and it cost us a goal. A similar thing could have happened against St. Gregory’s. When you have a chance to put a team away, you need to do that, and we did in the St. Gregory’s game,” Peel said.
UTD picked up its second win of the year Sept. 10 with a 1-0 victory against Southwestern. Freshman forward Jimmy Njoroge provided all the offense UTD would need with a goal in the 18th minute.
Though the 2-3 record may not indicate so, Peel said the early season games have been a success for UTD. Two of the losses came against NAIA schools with scholarship programs and an average player age of 24, Peel said.
“The first game we should have won. We have a whole lot of new players that we were trying out. We made a couple of mistakes here and there, and they took advantage of them,” he said.
Trinity – currently ranked No. 1 in Division III – has just two losses in the last three years and plays with a style UTD can learn from.
“I think what you see [in Trinity’s team] is that level of intensity that we have to bring to our training sessions and into our games. If we want to compete at that level, we have to bring that same intensity,” Peel said.