The Sideline View

Taylor O'Neil Hall, Sports Editor

It’s over.

It’s done. It finally happened.

The USI men’s soccer team won its first conference match of the season Sunday and ended a four-match losing streak in the process. The Screaming Eagles were once again able to scream “we won.”

It had been over 20 days since the team tasted victory, with the last win coming Sept. 3. That’s what poor defensive play will do, it makes it nearly impossible to win.

Going into the match Sunday, the USI men had allowed exactly one goal in each half of every match this season, excluding one match. Opposing teams had taken 45 shots on goal against USI as well, an average of 7.5 shots per contest.

When the defense allows that many shots on goal each match, some are bound to get through.

But back to the positive, Sunday’s match against Wisconsin Parkside, USI won 2-0. It’s the team’s only shutout this season. With the win, USI moves to 3-4 overall and 1-4 in Great Lakes Valley Conference play. That’s good enough for 12th place in the GLVC right now.

Which is odd because the season started off with so much promise.

Before the season began, the team was picked to finish third in the GLVC preseason poll. The highest predicted finish for the USI men since the team was picked to finish fourth in 2003.

Things started off as well as they could have. The Screaming Eagles opened up the year undefeated through two matches.

Then there was a stretch where things didn’t go so well, i.e. the previously mentioned four-match losing streak and the poor defensive play.

Maybe the team will play better defense moving forward. Against the Parkside Rangers, USI allowed the fewest shots on goal all season (2). Of course, Parkside is 2-4 in the GLVC (11th place) and 2-6 overall.

That’s beside the point, though, because the weight has been lifted. It’s a new day. The leaf has officially been turned over. The conference wins section on the team’s bio page is no longer sporting a zero. There’s a one in there now and hey, who knows, maybe the team will be able to trade that one in for a two Friday when they play against Lewis University (4-2 GLVC 5-3 overall).

It will take several teams just falling apart, like legs being severed from bodies, for the USI men to finish third in the conference now. Rockhurst is 5-0, UIndy is 5-1, Illinois Springfield is 4-1-1 and three teams have a 4-2 conference record right now.

But with nine GLVC matches remaining in the regular season, there’s time for the Screaming Eagles to right the ship, get a second wind, pick up the pieces and all the other cliches that mean to fix things before the postseason.