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Men’s soccer rebounds with win

The Eagles offense returned to life in a 3-1 victory.  |  Thecla Li/THE CHIMES

 

Coming off a three-game stretch in which they had been held scoreless in regulation, the Eagles went against the University of Hawaii at Hilo Vulcans on Oct. 16 desperately needing to rejuvenate their offense. Head coach Todd Elkins revamped the Eagles’ game plan, encouraging a more aggressive offensive attack in place of their usual, methodical approach. Biola responded with a much needed 3-1 victory over the Vulcans.

Taking more risks

Elkins’ strategy almost backfired early in the first half. Hilo forward Jesus Ortega sliced through the backfield for a well-placed breakaway shot, but Eagles senior goalkeeper Igor Puglia tipped the ball over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless. Puglia’s save was the first of many close calls for the Eagles’ defense as they allowed a whopping nine shots and three corner kicks within the first 20 minutes of the game.

“We took more risk, we were more direct at times,” Elkins said. “It stretched us out, so that our defense was left a bit isolated—that was kind of part of the deal.”

The gamble paid off in the 35th minute, when Hilo recorded a handball in the box during a Biola corner kick. On the ensuing penalty kick, junior midfielder Kousei Mattox planted the ball near the top of the goal to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. It marked the first goal of the season for Mattox, a talented player limited by injury for much of the season.

“I know where I am going to kick it [on a penalty kick],” Mattox said. “I don’t look at the goalie, that’s my thing. I went through my normal routine and just put it in the net.”

The Eagles did not strike again until midway through the second half, when senior midfielder Jarrett Pugh tapped in an assist from junior midfielder Hernan Sotelo for his team-high fifth goal of the year.

a tense, physical battle

The game developed into a tense, physical battle. The Vulcans received four yellow cards in the second half, much to the protest of an unusually large and vocal road crowd, comprised of family members as many Vulcans players hail from Southern California.

The high point of Hilo’s night came when Vulcans midfielder Jonathan Garcia scored in the 72nd minute to cut the Eagles’ lead to one. Hilo pressed for a tying score, but Biola’s defense held firm.

Freshman Jack Cybulski placed the ball in the bottom right corner of the net in the 86th minute, sealing the Eagles’ win. Biola scored its most goals in a single game since Sept. 30, finishing with 23 shots (six on goal) and seven corner kicks. Hilo had 21 shots (six on goal) and five corners.

“Tonight we said, ‘We’re not gonna mess around [on offense]. Everything [we do] has to have a purpose,’” Elkins said.

The Eagles will continue PacWest conference play at Concordia University Irvine at 4 p.m. on Oct. 21.

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