Max Pearson ’22
Men’s soccer correspondent
Davidson’s greatest ever points total in the Atlantic 10 Conference season is 14 points. Following their recent triumph on the road against UMass, they sit with 13 points and are tied for top spot. This is unchartered territory for the Wildcats, and the performances they continue to produce inspire nothing but absolute confidence that they can see this through to the tournament, and beyond.
The ‘Cats have been racking up a lot of miles recently with a flurry of road games, and the journey to Massachusetts will not be the last. Yet, their play hasn’t shown any signs of fatigue. UMass are the defending A-10 Conference Champions, but haven’t been playing to the same standard this season. Before Tuesday’s game, UMass sat in the bottom half of the table, with just 6 points from a possible 15.
Davidson started the game strong, with a lot of possession and early chances. However they failed to score, and before halftime struck the game was becoming more competitive. UMass began to make some chances of their own, but also failed to convert. The first half ended goalless.
The ‘Cats started the second half in a similar way to the first, with good possession, and looking the more dangerous team. In the 60th minute the constant pressure paid off, when Lucas Hauth ’22 (current A-10 Rookie of the week) latched onto a loose ball in the box, calmly faked past one player then fired a shot low and hard underneath the Minutemen’s goalkeeper. Eight minutes later, Davidson was once again rewarded for their persistency when right-back Henry Howell ’22 shot across goal. The UMass keeper stopped the shot but failed to gather the ball, which fell onto the boot of incoming striker Hauth. He was able to stroke into the far corner of an open goal to add both his second and Davidson’s.
The rest of regulation time was played out without any more goals. Davidson keeper Sawyer Gaffney ’20 was called into action on multiple occasions but was equal to every attempt he faced. The ‘Cats defense won their 4th clean sheet of the season.
Next up was a home game versus Fordham Rams, whose form has been hard to pin down this season with some wins against strong teams and losses to teams they were tipped to beat. This made the outcome hard to judge beforehand, although the Rams were capable of an upset.
Davidson’s best spell of the game came in the first 20 minutes. They had a large share of possession and looked the more likely to score when they attacked. However, Fordham grew into the game and, by halftime, they were competing for every ball and making life hard for the Davidson midfield.
After the break, the Rams started aggressively and Davidson matched their intensity well. As the half progressed, constant pressure from the Rams caused a lack of discipline amongst the ‘Cats who began to rack up several yellow cards for poor challenges. On one instance in particular, Gaffney challenged an oncoming attacker in the box, and the Rams made claims for a penalty. The referee, after some deliberation allowed play to continue, without penalizing the ‘Cats keeper.
In the 61st minute Quinn Dudek ’21 tackled an opponent around 30 yards from goal, and gave away a free kick in doing so. The Rams scored from the resulting effort, which found its way through the wall, and was helped past Gaffney’s flying glove by a deflection into the bottom corner. The Rams then scored a second eight minutes later in a manner almost identical to the way Davidson had beaten UMass earlier that week. A break down the right wing resulted in a low cross in front of goal which wasn’t dealt with, allowing an oncoming Rams attacker to tap into an open goal. ‘Cats frustration built from this point onward and, despite numerous attacks, they failed to score in the remaining time.
Although the ‘Cats unbeaten run is over they are still in a very strong position in the conference, with their tournament status all but guaranteed as they move into their last few games. Next up is a break from conference play, against Virginia Tech, who arrive in Davidson on Tuesday. No. 10 Virginia Tech will be a tough game for Davidson, however, if they play well, it may give them a needed boost for the last phase of the conference season.
To read Max’s reflections on this week’s tie versus the NCAA’s tenth-ranked Virginia Tech as well as the upcoming match against George Mason on Saturday, be sure to check out next week’s correspondence!