Cohesive and calculated.
These are two words to describe the Denison Men’s Soccer explosive offensive attack in Saturday’s convincing 4-0 conference victory over the Wittenberg Tigers.
The win came on the team’s Senior Day where their five seniors were honored prior to kick off while they each shared special moments with their families. The five seniors honored were defenders David Reina ‘19 and David Jaben ‘19, midfielder Adrian Miller ‘19 and forward Brandon Kozak ‘19. Injured midfielder Luis Zamora ‘19 was also honored alongside his fellow seniors.
The Big Red entered the game winners of two straight North Coast Athletic Conference road contests over DePauw and Oberlin and with a record of 4-6-1 (2-1-1 NCAC).
The Tigers, meanwhile, entered Saturday’s matchup looking to bounce back from a 3-2 loss against Wabash with a record of 6-7 (1-3 NCAC).
The Big Red would carry their pre-game festivities into the game as they pushed the pace and pressured the Wittenberg back line right from the opening whistle.
Although Denison controlled the first 30 minutes of the game on both sides of the field, the scoreboard still read 0-0. The offensive unit remained patient and continued to exploit one-on-one matchups on the outsides, particularly midfielder Braden Adamson ‘22.
Jaben ‘19 was among those who contributed to a near-flawless defensive effort in the early going against the Tigers. The veteran defender speaks to some of the responsibilities he and his senior teammates have held on a young, talented team this year.
“A lot of our role has just been mentoring the younger players through the inevitable ups and downs of their first years playing college soccer. Whether that’s giving them advice or supportive words, we have constantly been trying to find ways to make the younger guys reach the maturity and experience of an upperclassman,” said Jaben ‘19.
Finally in the 34th minute, the Big Red were rewarded for their patience. Miller ‘19 began what would be a special day for the former walk-on. After stealing a pass in the midfield, the senior midfielder unleashed a rocket of a shot from outside the 18-yard box that flew by the Wittenberg goalie into the upper corner of the net.
Miller’s highlight reel goal gave his team a 1-0 lead that would hold for the remainder of the 1st half.
“I don’t think we could’ve drawn up a more idyllic Senior Day; to be able to put in a convincing performance like that at home in front of our families and friends was very fulfilling,” Miller ‘19 said.
The game really opened up in the 2nd half for the Big Red. The team, who entered the game with a modest 11 goals in their first 11 games, has had their fair share of offensive struggles. But the first time all season, the flood gates opened up on offense and they tallied three more goals over a 17-minute span.
The scoring came from Luke Summers ‘21 (unassisted), Miller ‘19 (unassisted, his second of the game) and finally Reina ‘19 assisted from the head of Burke McLaughlin ‘22.
Reina’s goal, the fourth and final of the day for the Big Red, marked the senior defender’s first career goal in 36 career matches.
Reina ‘19 shares his first reactions following the team’s huge Senior Day victory: “Being honored as a senior in this program was a wonderful experience, but it pales in comparison to the joy I feel by seeing our team move one step closer to realizing our vision of being conference champions.”
If the Big Red are able to carry momentum from Saturday’s dominating win into their final set of NCAC conference games, there is no reason why they can’t fulfill their vision that Reina ‘19 has described. After outshooting the Tigers 22-9, the team will certainly look to replicate that same offensive success moving forward.
Senior forward, Brandon Kozak also chimed in on how the team was able to come out firing in the 2nd half of Saturday’s big win.
“In the first half we knew we were too content but the seniors came together at halftime and said that it was not good enough and that we needed to take it to a higher level,” said Kozak ‘19.
“The guys responded exactly the way we wanted them to,” he adds.
Now sitting in 3rd place in the NCAC, Denison has turned around a rocky regular season start with an impressive stretch of three wins in a row to improve to 3-1-1 in conference competition.
The Big Red will be home for their final regular season home game against Wabash on Wednesday, October 17 at 4 p.m. before hitting the road for their final three regular season games.