Panthers tie against ranked Omaha 0-0 Saturday

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

In what was arguably its biggest test of the season thus far, the Eastern men’s soccer team tied a program record, playing to their fifth draw of the season Saturday at Lakeside field against No. 23 ranked Omaha.

Eastern and Omaha played to a 0-0 result, marking the fourth game in a row the Panthers have failed to convert a goal, but also the fifth time this season they have shut out their opponent.

Despite Omaha being the higher ranked team, Eastern played at a level Saturday where they felt they should have beaten the Mavericks, Eastern coach Kiki Lara said.

“(I’m) disappointed that we didn’t get two more points out of that game because I felt that we were the better team today,” Lara said. “We were an inch away, a couple crosses that were just a half a yard off here and there and one that hit off the post. I just think in that moment we had momentum and that moment we were better. We had them figured out defensively and if we would have just gotten one in there we would have done it.”

Defensively, Eastern held Omaha to seven shots (five on goal), marking the fourth time this year the Panthers have held their opponent to under 10 shots.

“(There was) just full commitment from everyone today, nine to goalkeeper,” Lara said. “I thought the backline was phenomenal, I thought the midfield worked hard and made it difficult, the front players worked hard and made things difficult as well and when you have a backline like that and a goalkeeper like that playing where they are and doing what they do defensively it’s very difficult to score on us.”

Lara hopes the draw against Omaha shows the rest of the conference that Eastern is ready to make a play to be one of the top teams in the conference.

“It’s going to be a very tough game against Eastern and we’re putting ourselves in contention to get to the Summit Conference tournament,” Lara said. “Which is very difficult because there is six very good teams in the conference and four teams go the tournament.”

The athletes of both teams exchanged words and eventually shoves at multiple points in the game, in a conference game that was very physical.

“It’s Division I college soccer and it’s always expected to be highlighted in conference play,” Lara said. “We go back a long time with teams like this and coach (Jason) Mims and they have a great program and that’s all water under the bridge and we are just focusing on the next one in Western Illinois.”

Federico Verlicchi led Eastern by firing two of their four shots on the day. Simeon Packer and Marcus Menniti had the other two shots for the Panthers. All four of Eastern’s shots came in the second half of the game.

The draw moves Easter’s record to 2-3-5 on the season and puts Omaha at 7-1-1.

Eastern’s next game is Sept. 30 against Western Illinois.

   JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]