The men’s soccer team (0-2) wasn’t up for a challenging first weekend of its season, dropping two close games in Omaha, Neb. to difficult competition.
The Lions’ first game was Friday night against No. 2 Creighton (3-0), which was heavily favored. The Bluejays opened the scoring early on, as senior forward Sean Kim sprinted through the Columbia defense and beat sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Jackson in the 15th minute.
Jackson, who made 17 saves over the weekend, made a great diving stop on Bluejays top scorer Timo Pitter late in the first half to preserve the scoreline, and Columbia managed to pull together the tying goal early in the second. Senior striker Will Stamatis rang a shot off the crossbar, and the rebound bounced right to senior midfielder David Najem, who tucked a shot past the goalkeeper for his first of the season.
But Pitter, who led Creighton in scoring as a freshman last year, broke through in the 77th minute. He chased down a cross to the right of the goal, danced around sophomore back Bryce Terrill, and put a shot into the top corner for the winning goal.
“We pushed all our guys forward looking for a goal and got kind of stretched a little bit,” Jackson said. “I think we did as best we could with how many guys came in.”
Jackson made another diving stop to keep his team’s deficit at one goal. But he was helpless when with under five minutes remaining, four of his teammates left a gap that Bluejays freshman Ricardo Perez snuck through for an easy goal. Creighton took the game by a final score of 3-1.
“Even then we came back and had plenty of opportunities,” Columbia head coach Kevin Anderson said. “The goal at the end comes from us really pushing guys forward and trying to get ourselves back into the game ... Sometimes that happens.”
The Light Blue dropped its game on Sunday after a late goal as well. Playing in just the second regular-season game at Nebraska-Omaha’s new soccer field, Columbia generated 14 shots but could not break through UNO goalie Matt Grosey. Meanwhile, the Mavericks (1-2) scored the game’s first and only goal from just a few yards out in the 83rd minute as the Light Blue lost 1-0.
“We were the better team,” Anderson said. “We just didn’t walk away with it.”
Despite the losses, Anderson felt that the amount of chances and pressure Columbia was able to generate offensively was a positive.
“We learned a lot about our team,” he said. “We have a great ability to be creative, we have a good ability on restarts, and we have a tremendous amount of depth on our team. This is just the beginning of the season.”
Columbia opens its home slate on Saturday against Iona.