Mesa men’s soccer team beats Mines for first time
Zero wins, 13 losses.
That was the Colorado Mesa University men’s soccer team’s all-time record over seven seasons against No. 22 Colorado School of Mines.
Wednesday night, it took a long-range effort from Stevie Palma and some physical defense on Orediggers’ star Teso Akindele, but the Mavericks picked up the first victory against Mines in the program’s history with a 2-1 win at Walker Field.
In the 79th minute, Palma received the ball 30 yards from the goal and quickly spun before ripping a top-spin shot that curled over the goalie and just under the crossbar.
“(Assistant coach) Jonny (Broadhead) was telling me that Stevie caught (the goalie) out, and I look and he had caught him out,” Mavericks coach Josh Pittman said. “We didn’t have our best second half, but we had a wonder-strike from Stevie. It’s one of those where you’re really excited, but you have to realize there is still 10 minutes left in the game, and we’ve got to dig deep against these guys.”
Palma, a former Central High School standout, said he knew the goal was in the second he shot it.
“I focused on the ball and struck it,” Palma said. “I knew. I knew something good was going to happen, and it felt great.”
The CMU defense had to contend with Akindele, who likely will be a Major League Soccer draft pick in January, and Pittman said the Mavericks (6-4-3, 4-2-3 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) were going to give Akindele as little space as possible. Akindele drew a handful of foul calls and could be heard yelling, “Get them off me,” but the Mavericks held him to four shots on goal, two scoring chances and one goal.
The Mavericks were outshot 16-9, but a solid defensive line minimized the distance from which Mines could shoot. The Orediggers (8-3-1, 6-3 RMAC) were limited to three shots on goal from inside the penalty box.
Three yellows cards for CMU matches a season high, and Pittman said although they didn’t target Akindele, making sure he wasn’t able to run freely up the field and find space to shoot was key to the win.
“We don’t want to let him run free, and when he does run free he’s just so quick, even for his size,” Pittman said. “He makes things difficult, and he makes players miss. He’s one of the best players in the country, Division I or anything, and we’ll probably be watching him in the MLS next year.”
It was Spencer Jackson who gave CMU its first goal of the game. The former Palisade player scored the first goal of his college career on a 25-yard run up the right wing and a hard shot that deflected off a defender and into the net.
The Mavs’ Micah Conrads picked a season-high eight saves, and his .821 save percentage this season is second best in the RMAC.