Because it is late in the season, Maryville College soccer coach Pepe Fernandez expects fatigue to play a bigger factor, but what he saw on Sunday was concerning.
What makes matters worse is believes it is avoidable if the USA South Athletic Conference would recognize the demand placed on soccer players that play so much with little or no rest. Maryville dropped a 2-0 result to East Division-leading North Carolina Wesleyan, and as Fernandez watched his players struggle to pick themselves up to walk across the field following the game he repeated an argument he said he and other conference coaches have been trying to change for years: You shouldn’t play soccer on consecutive days.
“What happens in these games is it’s usually just a mistake or two that leads to the goal instead of a good sequence of play,” Fernandez said. “(Wesleyan) had more shots than us but not quality shots. You can’t play soccer back to back like this and expect anything other than some sort of mental mistake (lead to a goal).”
Maryville (10-6, 8-3) also played Saturday, as did Wesleyan (13-2-1, 11-1). The Scots’ opening conference weekend featured games on consecutive days, and they’ll do it again next weekend. This weekend was the fourth time this year Wesleyan has had to do it.
Neither team created many dangerous opportunities in the attacking third. Maryville goalkeeper Mykal Manfred turned away Wesleyan’s best chance in the run of the play in the 28th minute when Aazah Daniel ripped a shot from inside the box across the goal to the far post. Manfred reacted in a split second to get a hand on it.
Eight minutes later, Maryville was whistled for a handball and Wesleyan converted the free kick. From a few steps outside the top of the penalty area, Wesleyan’s Matteo Costa hit a low shot that curled around the right side of the wall and beat Manfred at the right post.
The teams continued to play mostly in the middle third until Wesleyan doubled its lead in the 70th minute on another free kick. The Battling Bishops won a foul about 45 yards from the goal, and Jack Holden hit it high into the penalty area.
Manfred came off his line for a basket catch, but Joe Brooks got there at the same time as him and hit it into the net with his shoulder.
The Scots played without several players who are injured, and other players who have been playing big minutes lately are likely to take some time off. Maryville plays at William Peace on Friday and at Greensboro on Saturday to close the regular season.
Already locked into the West Division’s No. 2 seed for the conference tournament, Fernandez said the Scots will tread lightly next weekend.
“We have a week to recover,” he said. “The table is pretty much set. We’ll be able to rest some people if needed to get ready for the tournament in two weeks.”