Catonsville, MD- For the fourth straight year, UMBC’s men’s soccer team was victorious in their home opener and this time it was at the hands of ACC foe Virginia Tech.
Andrew Bulls passes his free kick to Sean Rothe for the score
Midway through the first half UMBC broke open their offense. Forward Andrew Bulls set up for a free kick near the right sideline after Levi Houapeu was pulled to the ground from behind on a breakaway. Rather than shooting the ball from an awkward angle he passed the ball in to Sean Rothe, who blasted it from eight yards out for the Retrievers first goal of the season.
Virginia Tech did not have the ball much for the rest of the first half. UMBC was on the attack for the next 10 minutes when they added another goal. Houapeu took control of the ball and passed it forward to freshman Milo Kapor, in a two-on-two situation he passes it left to Bulls, who shot the ball into the right corner of the goal from 12 yards out.
With a 2-0 lead at the half the UMBC players were booming with confidence, jumping around and yelling when they came back to the field for the start of the second half, they were trying to get the 1,106 fans in attendance to get even more into the game.
That enthusiasm led to one more insurance goal. Andy Streilein showed why he was selected to start in his first season at UMBC (he played a Delaware in 2008) with a 60 yard breakaway that ended with a perfect pass to Houapeu who blasted that ball for a 3-0 lead for UMBC.
Levi Houapeu celebrating after his goal
From then on the game was in cruise control, UMBC had Virginia Tech’s number and it was clear UMBC was going to win the game as they were up three with 38 minutes left. The team had one lapse where poor passing lead to a take away and a Virginia Tech goal, but from them on UMBC was not going to let the Hokies get any closer.
In goal, freshman Phil Saunders became the first freshman to start his first game in goal at UMBC since Soren Byskov in 1997 but he looked like a fourth year senior. He only made three saves but he was very vocal and constantly called shifts to the defense to hold Virginia Tech to just seven shots, four on goal.
Phil Saunders calling defensive shifts
The game was the team’s fourth straight season-opening and home-opening win but it meant much more. They team looked very good. They showed they can score goals against a good opponent, something they really struggled to do last season, but more importantly the players made good decisions and good passes and as long as those two things happen they will win.