#19 Spartans Topple Top-Ranked Chicago 2-1 on ‘Senior Day’

#19 Spartans Topple Top-Ranked Chicago 2-1 on ‘Senior Day’

The 19th-ranked Case Western Reserve University men's soccer team picked up a statement win at home on Sunday afternoon, defeating the University of Chicago, the top-ranked team in Division III, 2-1 in University Athletic Association action at DiSanto Field in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Today was a great win for this group and a better win for our program," said Head Coach Brandon Bianco.  "At times the natural thought after games is to move on to the next one, and we will, but right now I want our program to enjoy this result. This is a result to be proud of and it wasn't by mistake."

The win raises the Spartans' record to 11-2-1, but more importantly, provides the team with another victory against a highly-ranked opponent to help strengthen their resume for a postseason bid.  CWRU is now 4-0-0 against opponents ranked nationally in the United Soccer Coaches Top-25 at the time of the game, including a 1-0 victory over 22nd-ranked Capital on September 15th, a 3-0 win over seventh-ranked Kenyon on September 26th, and a 1-0 win over 23rd-ranked Washington on Friday.  It also marked the first time in program history that the Spartans have defeated Division III's top-ranked team.

Meanwhile, CWRU handed the Maroons their first loss of the season and ended their streak of 11-straight wins, as Chicago dropped to 12-1-1 overall in 2018.

The victory also gave the Spartans a 2-1-1 record in UAA play this season, moving them within two points of Chicago (3-1-0) for first place in the conference standings with three games remaining in the UAA schedule.

After a scoreless first half, junior Zachary Senft put the Spartans on the board with his fifth goal of the year in the 55th minute of the game.  Senior Alex Besl created a scoring opportunity by driving up the far flank of the field, before passing to the middle to Senft.  With just enough space to launch a shot from 27 yards out, Senft sent a rocket past the Maroon's keeper for the go-ahead goal.  Senft increased his season point total to 16 with the strike (five goals and six assists), while Besl earned his second assist of the campaign on the play, and is now third on the team with 14 points.

The Spartans maintained the 1-0 until the 63rd minute, when a foul was called against CWRU just inside the far side of the 18-yard box, giving the Maroons a chance to tie the game on a penalty kick.  Chicago's Max Lopez would take advantage, scoring his 12th goal of the season on the ensuing penalty kick to knot the score at a goal apiece.

The deciding goal game came with just 8:37 remaining in the game, Besl was taken down by the Chicago defense on a breakaway inside the 18-yard box, resulting in the game's second penalty kick.  Junior Garrett Winter took the penalty, sending it past the keeper for the eventual game-winning goal.  The goal was Winter's seventh of the season, including his third game winner, and gave him 17 points for the campaign, all team highs.

The Spartans' defense would keep the Maroons attack at bay for the remainder of the game, as the Spartans held on for the key victory.

Freshman goalkeeper Charlie Fink made three saves in goal for the Spartans, improving to 11-2-1 individually on the year with a 0.73 goals-against average and a .808 save percentage.

Sunday also marked 'Senior Day' for the Spartans, as the team honored its five senior players with a ceremony prior to the start of the game – Besl, Brady Daulton, Reed Kurtenbach, Christian Lytle, and Josh Wargo.

"I couldn't be more proud of the guys and those who came before who have laid a tremendous foundation for us.  We'll enjoy this one now and then get back to work Tuesday," said Bianco.

With a week off before their next game, the Spartans will have some time to relish the victory, before refocusing on a run at the UAA Championships during the stretch run of the season.  Case Western Reserve will return to action next Monday, October 22nd with a 7:00 p.m. non-conference game against Westminster College (Pa.), the team's final home game of the regular season.