Loss to Regis means no bye in RMAC tournament for Mesa men's soccer team
For the first time this season, the Colorado Mesa University men’s soccer team lost a game in which it scored.
Despite a long-range goal from Nestor Escobar on Sunday at Walker Field, the Mavericks fell 2-1 against Regis, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference leader.
Two miscues on set pieces cost CMU its five-game win streak and eight-game stretch without a loss. The loss cost the Mavericks a first-round bye in the RMAC tournament.
Mark Kelly, third in the RMAC in goals scored, was unmarked during a corner kick in the 15th minute. He ran freely into the penalty box and met the looping cross with his head after the ball narrowly cleared a pack of players. Kelly buried the goal in the top-right corner.
“We just struggled today and gave up two stupid set pieces,” CMU coach Josh Pittman said. “That’s been one of our strengths this year, not giving that up.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm. Good teams will do that to you. I’ll have to look at the tape to see exactly what happened, but the fact of the matter is that (Kelly) is one of the top scorers in the conference, and you can’t leave a guy like him open.”
The second, and more aggravating miscue for Pittman, happened in the 38th minute when Davey Hewitt swung in a spin-heavy indirect free kick from near midfield. Hewitt aimed for the back post, and when the ball cleared a clash between CMU and Regis players, neither goalkeeper Brandyn Bumpas nor a CMU defender played the ball. It spun into the right side of the net.
From there, the Mavs (10-5-3, 8-3-3 RMAC) faced a physical battle in the second half. Physicality isn’t new to the Mavericks, with opposing teams trying to disrupt CMU’s possession-heavy style of play. Regis (12-2-1, 11-2-1 RMAC) picked up two yellow cards in the second half on reckless tackles, but it also limited the amount of scoring chances the Mavericks had. Many of CMU’s shots were blasted from beyond the penalty box, and the Rangers faced only three shots on goal in the second half.
The loss gives the Mavericks the No. 3 seed in the RMAC tournament, and instead of a first-round bye, the Mavericks will host the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Walker Field. CMU tied twice with UCCS this season: 0-0 in mid-October and 1-1 in September.
Pittman said depth will be a factor in the Mavericks’ ability to secure a win against the Mountain Lions.
“We need to have all facets of the game going. Offense, defense, goalkeeping, everything needs to be on point,” Pittman said. “At this point, we need bodies. We need guys to be able to come in and execute.
“Today we had a couple guys go down, and Austin (Jex) comes in and fills in easily, I think. The challenge for us is that we have all this depth, and I think that sometimes finding the right combination becomes a challenge. I mean, today was a challenge, and our execution just wasn’t clicking.”
Senior midfielder Michael Bagheri said sometimes mistakes on set pieces are a matter of luck, and he isn’t worried about the Mavericks’ momentum heading into the playoffs. Miscommunications happen, he said, and it’s just a matter of minimizing damage.
“We’ve just got to do what we’ve done, before today, this season,” Bagheri said. “Up to this point we’ve had a solid defense, and as far as I know we haven’t had a lot of goals scored on us on set pieces. So, moving forward, it’s really just about us staying focused and playing the way we have.”