Men face Western for MAC tourney

The men’s soccer team is playing in the biggest game of the season this weekend. The Falcons, fresh off an upset of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, play in the Mid- American Conference Championships on Sunday.

The team is traveling to Kalamazoo, Mich. to take on the Western Michigan Broncos in the tournament finals. The Broncos defeated the No. 2 seed, Akron, Saturday in shoot-outs to earn their place in the finals.

The Falcons and the Broncos have already faced each other once this season, but the regular season game did not have near the implications as this championship game. The regular season game between these two teams, that took place in late October, ended in a 2-2 tie in double overtime.

The Falcons finished the season with a 6-8-5 record but have been playing their best soccer late in the year.

“I felt from the first day of practice that there was a lot of talent on this team,” said Falcon coach Mel Mahler. “All along I knew we could play at this level and the end of the season I was frustrated, and disappointed but I was still encouraged going into the tournament.”

The Falcons are hoping to keep the momentum from the win over Kentucky going into Sunday’s championship game. The Falcons not only gave the Wildcats their first loss of the season but also managed to score the first goal allowed by Kentucky all season. “I think anytime you beat Kentucky you’re motivated, only because Kentucky is a very good team,” Mahler said. “We are at the point now that we’re playing very well, we’re a little more motivated because of the win. The result last Sunday speaks but we don’t want to get beyond that.”

Despite the upcoming game this weekend, the Falcons are feeling extremely optimistic and excited, and for many members of the team it is the biggest game that they have taken part in.

“There has been a lot of positive nervousness during practice this week,” said coach Mahler. “The guys are having fun with this but when it comes time to work, they go to work. They are out warming up, having some laughs and enjoying themselves but now it’s time to focus and they’ve been able to do that.”

The Falcons are going to have to rely on their strengths to win Sunday’s match. The Falcons defense, which has had a great season and tournament, will be looking to goaltender Dave DeGraff to lead them. DeGraff had the 19th shutout of his career and his fifth this year.

“We need to stick with our game plan,” said Mahler. “We know how we want to defend and we know how we want to attack and we need to stay with that plan no matter what the score is at any point in time. We need to withstand the first 20 minutes of each half and just stay to our game plan. I think our guys know it and believe in it and now they just have to execute it.”