Coach Ed Vucinic has to be satisfied with the way his team has started off this season. The team began the season on a two-game road trip where they split both games, losing their season opener 3-0 to number two seed, University of Rio Grande and beating Shawnee State University, 2-0. It’s already an improvement compared to the start the team had last season. Their record so far is 3 wins and 2 losses. Their two losses have been on the road while they’ve won both games at home.
Last season, Saint Xavier did not manage to win their first game until their ninth game of the season. Statistically, the team has improved on all facets of the game as compared to last season. Through five games, the team has conceded three fewer goals as well as scoring two more goals than last year. Overall, Vucinic’s men have a positive goal differential of +0. Certain standouts on the team include senior forward and freshman midfielder, David Rebollar and Caden Patten. They are Saint Xavier’s top scorers, sharing that honor with two goals a piece. It’s a nice way for Rebollar to start off his final campaign with Saint Xavier and a nice way for Patten to start off his collegiate career.
Another standout is senior goalkeeper, Frank Valle. Valle has started all of Saint Xavier’s five games, recording a total of thirty saves. Along with the saves, he’s also kept three clean sheets. He’s a constant in Vucinic’s side and when you watch him play, it doesn’t take long for one to realize why. Similar to women’s goalkeeper, Carly Bledsoe, they command their defense well and act as a leader on the field.
Valle is athletic and good in the air, which is important for defending free-kicks or corner kicks. This is Valle’s final season with Saint Xavier and has long solidified his status as the #1 goalkeeper.
Last, but definitely not least, is a player in position that rarely gets any of the shine. Sophomore defender, Michael Gutierrez continues to impress for Saint Xavier. Against Lindenwood University – Belleville, he made a case for Player of the Match. In an age where a defender now has to contribute to the attack, Gutierrez showed that he was up to the task. Gutierrez would constantly open up as an option for Frank Valle in order to play out from the back. When tracking back, he used his pace to stifle Lindenwood’s attack time and time again. Coach Vucinic is always looking for ways in which the team can improve. From an outsider looking in, perhaps consistency is an aspect he and the team can focus on.
While the team has won three out of five games, they’ve been shut out in both losses. At the early stage of the season, Saint Xavier either scores and shuts out their opponent, or they get shut out themselves. The season has started off rather well for Vucinic and his team. As mentioned earlier, it took them a while to pick their first win last season. Getting that first win out of the way must have been an early motivator for the team. Soccer is a game of ups and downs and a team can quickly roll into a funk especially if they’re coming off a disappointing last season. Saint Xavier are in for a test in their next game when they take on seventh ranked, University of Northwestern Ohio.* Coach Vucinic will undoubtedly attempt to ride this positive start as long as he can and try to cause an upset. *(Note: Saint Xavier fell to Northwestern Ohio 1-0 in 2OT).