The Emory men’s soccer team maintained its winning streak and advanced to 6-0 with victories over the Millsaps College (Miss.) Majors on Sept. 15 and the SUNY Maritime College (N.Y.) Privateers on Sept. 16.
With final scores of 4-0 and 3-0, respectively, the Eagles dominated offensively, earning two shutouts on the other end of the field. Both games saw clean, patient play from the home-turf Eagles.
Saturday’s game against Millsaps started slowly with little action from either team, but a lightning delay 15 minutes into regulation gave both teams a chance to focus themselves.
Both the Eagles and the Majors returned to the field with new energy, taking a combined five shots on goal within the next 10 minutes. Despite the change in tempo from both teams, the Eagles pulled ahead in momentum and spent most of the next 20 minutes in the Majors’ half of the field.
Senior forward and team captain Moustafa Khattab put the first point on the board for Emory at four minutes remaining in the first half.
Emory charged into the second half with a shot taken after only two minutes, followed quickly by their second goal from sophomore defender Josh Berman off a corner kick from Khattab. Keeping the ball predominantly in Millsaps’ half of the field, the Eagles continued to demonstrate excellent ball control and a strong passing game.
At 26 minutes remaining, Emory found their third goal of the game through junior midfielder Jun Tsuru with an assist from junior midfielder Keegan McCombie.
Even with a substantial 3-0 lead, the Eagles did not back off. The team outshot the Majors (5-1) on goal over the next 20 minutes. With a fourth and final header goal off a corner kick from freshman midfielder Matt Engler, freshman defender Daniel SanGiovanni all but ended the game.
“I think the biggest thing is just so many people are stepping up,” Khattab said of the four goals scored by four different players. “I think we’re all having a lot of fun with it.”
Head Coach Cory Greiner attributed the team’s momentum to their attention to detail and basic habits.
“One of the big things we’ve been harping on is making sure we get all the details right,” Greiner said. “It’s simple things like being on time, being ready to train every day. … [There is] a lot of attitude work with the guys to make sure we’re still staying mentally prepared for a challenge.”
To Greiner, the importance of paying attention to these elements is clear.
“It’s very easy to fall into a situation where if you’re having success, you take it for granted,” Greiner said. “We want to make sure the guys are appreciating every moment and not taking anything for granted.”
Sunday’s match against the Privateers began with much more energy from the Eagles. Unlike Saturday’s match, this game was rife with penalties. Both teams earned two free kicks each within the first 25 minutes of play, and the players only grew more aggressive as the game continued. Once again, the Eagles’ biggest strength was their ball control. The team was quick to pass and careful in controlling touches.
After back and forth shots on goal, the Eagles scored the first point. Sophomore forward Nate Sampson clocked a narrow goal just past the reach of the Privateers goalkeeper and into the back-right corner.
Just three minutes later, Khattab notched his second goal of the weekend with a stellar free kick to the left post. Emory continued to fire shot after shot toward the Privateers’ goal during the half. With both sides beginning to fatigue, a breakaway goal from sophomore forward Patrick McCann brought the Maritime goalkeeper to the ground and fans to their feet. The energy back in their steps, the Eagles finished out the match with no rebuttal from their opponents.
Overall, the weekend was filled with promising play by the Eagles. Emory’s defensive unit allowed zero goals, as the rest of the team spent well over the majority of both games in the opposing team’s half and had six different players put up points.
Greiner harkened back to last year’s season, capped by the team’s admission into the Elite Eight in the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Once you get in [the tournament], anything can happen,” Greiner said. “But I think the guys got a little taste of it last year, and I think it reignited some of those feelings for those guys, making sure they’re … in shape and sharp into preseason. That’s been one of the goals for the group, to get back and hopefully surpass what we were able to do last year.”
If the Eagles continue to play at the same level as this past weekend, those hopes may well come to fruition.
The Eagles will play Birmingham-Southern College (Ala.) on Sept. 19 at 8 p.m.