Catamount soccer has been revived this spring thanks to the formation of a new club squad, just as the men’s and women’s rugby teams have come about in the past few years. English head coach/ mid-fielder Mark Burgess leads the new squad, which is composed mostly of foreign players.
The makeup of this team rivals a United Nations conference, with players hailing from England, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, South America, and even right here in the United States where they still call it soccer.
Following the style of their coach, the team utilizes a 3-5-2 formation which is very popular among European teams. This style allows for more flexibility and range, but also calls for a very skilled mid-field that can take control of the game.
The squad’s first match-up was against the Asheville Chick-Fil-A club of the Buncombe competitive league at the Sandhill playing fields in Asheville.
Western jumped out of the gates slowly, and allowed Asheville to take an early 1-0 lead. They settled down, however, and shut down the Asheville attack for the rest of the half. The Catamounts were still not able to get their attack into gear and headed into the locker room trailing by a single goal.
The WCU defense further shut Asheville down in the second half, allowing them only three shooting opportunities in the entire half. Western was not having the same problems, however, and scored twice in the span of two minutes to gain the lead for the first time in the contest.
The first goal saw Ben Endicott and David Woisetschlager control the ball on the right side. A quick cross led to a goal for Hocacio Repetto, which evened the score at 1-1. Just two minutes later, the same trio set up a similar play, and Repetto scored his second goal of the game.
The Cats clinched the victory just five minutes later, as Martin Jeffers controlled a loose ball right in front of the Asheville goal and tapped in Western’s third goal.
Fresh off a victory in their opening game, WCU traveled to Middle Tennessee State University last Saturday. Their first taste of college competition offered a greater challenge than their opener, as MTSU came out in the first half controlling the ball.
Despite passing in the mid field and maintaining possession, MTSU was unable to create serious scoring opportunities. Madern, along with fullbacks Jon Archer and Jonas Hellie, anchored the stern WCU defense that shut out MTSU in the first half.
While the Catamounts could not maintain possession of the ball, they capitalized on their first scoring opportunity. Repetto once again found the ball deep and, as MTSU failed to clear and the goalkeeper came out of position to charge the ball, he floated a shot over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net. WCU would take this slim one-goal advantage into the locker room at the half.
MTSU finally broke through the Western defense fifteen minutes into the second half, as an odd-man rush allowed their attacker to size up keeper Klaas Van Oosterhout and fire past him in the bottom corner.
Repetto then saw his cue to regain the lead for the Cats as their most dominant offensive threat thus far in the season. He managed to dribble past the MTSU defense and score his fourth goal on the season and second in the game to give WCU the 2-1 advantage.
That score stood up until the final five minutes of the contest, when MTSU attackers caught the Western defense out of position and tied the game at 2-2, which would stand for the final score.
The first two matches of men’s club soccer saw a win, a tie, and many bright areas on which the team can build. Burgess explains that going unbeaten in their first two matches is a positive start for the new club. He adds, however, that the team has still not played up to its potential.
“I think with it being the first two games, I’m very happy with the results, but not too happy the way we’ve played,” he said.
Repetto has already solidified himself as a serious offensive threat. His coach admits that Repetto is a special player who is capable of scoring at will.
“He creates more of his own scoring chances,” said Burgess. “He’s a very skillful, tricky player.”
Meanwhile, Madern anchors a solid defense that has formed the squad’s foundation. Burgess admits that the unit is becoming more comfortable with the team’s makeup as a whole.
“They’re beginning to learn the formation a lot better, especially Madern at the sweeper position,” he said.
At the same time, Burgess, Anthony Perrone, and Martin Jeffers have shown poise and discipline in controlling the ball at mid-field.
Western will have their next test Saturday, March 24, pitting themselves against the Forty-Niners of UNC Charlotte.