Men’s soccer reaches top 10 ranking

The men’s soccer team extended its winning streak with a 2-0 win over LeTourneau on Oct. 11, a 4-1 win over UT-Tyler on Oct. 12 and a 6-2 win over Mary Hardin-Baylor on Oct. 17.

The Comets (10-0-3, 4-0-2 ASC) scaled new heights in rankings as they climbed to No. 7 in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America Top 25. The spot, awarded after the wins over the Oct. 11-12 weekend, is the first top 10 spot in program history.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” said head coach Jason Hirsch. “It’s not our objective at the moment, but it’s good for the players to be recognized.”

The win against LeTourneau was a routine one for the Comets, as goals from junior forward Omar Jaroun and senior forward Michael Darrow secured the win.

The first goal came in the 17th minute when Jaroun picked up a pass from Darrow and slotted the ball past the goalkeeper into the lower left half of the goal, taking his tally of the season to seven. Darrow had a couple of opportunities to extend the lead in the first half, as he managed to hit the post in the 18th minute and the crossbar in the 45th minute.

The defense shut down the Yellow Jackets’ offense in the first half, as the opponents failed to shoot a single ball on target.

LeTourneau started the second half strong with a couple of saved shots in the first five minutes. They looked to turn the match around until the Comets were awarded a free kick in the 58th minute. Darrow rose to meet junior midfielder Travis White’s free kick in the center of the box to head the ball past the goalkeeper.

Nicknish was forced to save a couple more shots to secure another clean sheet for the team, recording a personal 18th career clean sheet, surpassing former Comet Jake Brandon’s record of 17 career clean sheets.

“It’s cool. I didn’t really know it happened until someone told me,” Nicknish said. “In the end, it’s the whole team. We are pretty solid, and I can’t do it without my defense.”

The team faced the Patriots and recorded an easy 4-1 win on Oct. 12. Darrow broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when he scored from a direct free kick. The team doubled its lead seven minutes later, when White picked up a blocked shot and passed it to senior forward Benjamin Tijerina, who made no mistake in slotting it past the goalkeeper.

The Patriots cut the lead in the second half when their forward scored off from a long pass, making this the fifth goal scored against the team all season. The team didn’t wait long to retain its two-goal lead, as White struck off a blocked shot.

With 45 seconds left on the clock, sophomore forward Michael Matthews scored off an assist from Jaroun to put the match beyond all doubt.

“Yes, I was happy with the performance,” Hirsch said. “We played well. We were sloppy initially in the second half and gave up a counter-goal, but we came back and played well after that.”

The team set a new program record for consecutive games without a loss with its 6-2 win over Mary Hardin-Baylor on Oct. 17.

The Comets had a bumpy start to the game conceding twice in the first 17 minutes. This was the first time this season the team conceded two goals in a match. The Comets trailed for most of the half until the 41st minute when junior midfielder Robert McGinnis found himself one-on-one with the Crusaders’ goalkeeper after receiving a cross from freshman midfielder Connor Crabtree. McGinnis kept his cool to slot the ball past the goalkeeper.

“We were lacking concentration, focus and intensity in the beginning,” Hirsch said. “We were not sharp and made a couple of mistakes, and when you make mistakes against good teams they punish you.”

The Comets pushed in the second half and took less than three minutes to find the equalizer. Sophomore midfielder Jordan Rubel attempted a header from a White corner, and was saved by the opponents’ goalkeeper, but Rubel was quick on his follow-up and slotted his next header into the net.

The Comets finally secured a lead when Matthews shot the ball past the goalkeeper from another White corner in the 57th minute. The team then inflicted more pain in the next 19 minutes than the opponents did in the initial 17 minutes, finding the back of the net three times to seal the match.

Sophomore forward J.T. Hawkins doubled the lead when he beat the goalkeeper from a pass from senior midfielder Bryan Shiba. Jaroun scored a goal in the 76th minute, taking a deep free kick from Rubel.

Darrow finished the match off with a goal in the 86th minute, making him the sixth different goal scorer for the team that night. Nicknish had a busy night as he made eight saves from 11 shots.

With four matches left in the regular season, the Comets look to be favorites to top the league and host the American Southwest Conference Championship at home.

However, they face two stern tests against Louisiana College on Oct. 24 and Mississippi College on Oct. 26.

The Comets will play the last match of the regular season against Ozarks on Nov. 2 at home.

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