by Eli Keith
On Sept. 3, the UMW men’s soccer team won their home opener against Guilford College 7-1. Spectators not only witnessed the Eagles maintain a strong lead over the Guilford Quakers, they also saw a decades-long UMW record be matched.
With four goals, senior business administration major Josh Kirkland helped establish the Eagles’ offensive success, tying the school record for goals in a game by a single player. The record was set in 1992 and equaled once before in 1999.
After what sophomore political science major Carter Berg described as “a battle” of a first game—a 3-2 victory over North Carolina Wesleyan College just two days earlier—the team has two wins under their belt to start the year.
Saturday’s game, though a strong offensive showing from the Eagles, was a tight physical contest. Black and white jerseys frequently clashed with players bumping and pushing off of each other seeking an advantage on the ball. Sophomore Jordy Santana was given a yellow card when a Guilford player went to the ground going for the ball, while Guilford sophomore Osman Torres was thrown out of the game with a red card after Berg was fouled flagrantly.
The second half of the game was physically rougher; it saw five penalties of the 11 total fouls including two yellow cards per team.
“You are typically going to see teams become a little more physical when the game gets out of hand,” said assistant coach David Yates. “But I think our guys responded well … and we kind of kept our heads.”
UMW was supported by the home crowd and spirited student section, who chanted “Get dirty, go Wash” in moments of momentum and excitement.
“Every game, we treat it like it’s a conference championship game,” said Berg.
He assisted on two goals and scored the Eagles’ sixth goal off a penalty kick. UMW ended with a commanding lead in shots, attempting 35 compared to Guilford’s six. The Eagles also led 11-2 in corner kicks.
Even though post-season goals circle the team, the Eagles are aware of the challenges they have ahead. While the conference championship game is on many of the players’ minds as a season-long goal, according to Yates, “Each game is important … we have an extremely tough schedule, one of the most difficult in the country.”
The team also hopes for a return to the NCAA tournament.
“The Final Four is the furthest we’ve gotten [in team history] so to get there and push that, I think that’s our goal,” said senior biology and chemistry major Jacob Kautzman, who was on the team the last time they qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2019.
The victory has helped the Eagles focus on what is going well and what they can still improve upon.
“We’re still working out the kinks, got the new freshmen in here and they’re still learning the system,” said Berg.
With 20 returning players and 11 freshmen, sophomore biology major Aidan Shell said that “everyone’s playing well. Our mentality for this game really was just set the tone for the rest of the year.”
Outside of Kirkland’s four goals and Berg’s one, senior business administration major Gadson Abel knocked in UMW’s fifth goal just before halftime, while freshman Edres Fekrat, a computer science major, brought the Eagles’ total to seven by scoring the final goal of the game.
“I thought today was a good performance of what we’re capable of,” said Kautzman. “Against competitive teams, we will have to struggle a little bit more to get that, but if we can replicate that I think we’ll have a pretty good chance the rest of the year.”
The Eagles will next be in action on Sept. 6 as they host Johns Hopkins University, a division rival.