By: Edward Perez – Staff Writer
The 2015 season for the Dayton men’s soccer team was one for the books. From winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, to advancing to the NCAA tournament for the third time in program history and getting the first-ever tournament win, head coach Dennis Currier, his team and staff should be proud of all they accomplished this year.
After defeating VCU in the Atlantic 10 conference final, the Flyers were crowned A-10 champs and obtained an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Currier’s side had not won the conference since 2009 and had not participated in the national tournament since 2008, when Dayton lost in the first round.
The Flyers made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they faced longtime rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
To reach the second round, Dayton overcame Oakland on Nov. 19, who had a two-nil lead over the Flyers in the 23rd minute. The Flyers managed to get a goal before the half ended thanks to the efforts of freshman forward Kennedy Nwabia. Nwabia headed the ball past Oakland’s keeper and into the net with only 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
Senior defender Carlos Sendin was hailed as a hero for the Flyers in the 72nd minute after rebounding junior midfielder James Haupt’s blocked shot into the goal and drawing the game. This forced the game into overtime, in which neither Oakland nor UD scored. The game was to be settled in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. Junior goalkeeper Justin Saliba came out big with a save in the shootout to see the Flyers advance to the second round.
Three days later, it was do or die for Currier’s side. The Flyers traveled to Columbus, Ohio to face ninth-seeded Ohio State. Previously in the season, the Flyers fell to the Buckeyes in a nonconference game that ended with a score of 2-0 in favor of Ohio State. The Flyers looked to redeem themselves and advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament, where the winner was to face the eight seed Stanford.
Once again, the game was settled in a penalty shootout. This resulted from a 1-1 draw in regular and overtime play. Graduate student Amass Amankona, who was a star for the Flyers this season, and is a candidate for the senior CLASS award, gave a superb cross to senior forward Maik Schoonderwoerd that resulted in the ball flying past Ohio State’s keeper and into the goal off Schoonderwoerd’s head, netting his 11th goal of the season. This occurred in the 50th minute, and Red Scare, who showed immense support for the team throughout the entire season, greatly outnumbered the Buckeye fans at their own stadium and sang and cheered loudly with high hopes for a victory.
In the 73rd minute, tension rose when a mistake in the Flyer defense gave Ohio State’s defender the space to dribble the box and send a ball just out of the reach of Saliba and into the Flyers’ net. The game was sent into overtime for the second time in a row for the Flyers, which was also the 7th time in the season for Currier’s side. Amankona nearly settled the game in the 102nd minute of overtime play when his shot was denied by the crossbar. With both teams failing to score in overtime play, the game was to once more be settled in a penalty shootout. Haupt missed his penalty shot, but Saliba leveled the shootout again saving a penalty immediately afterwards. The Flyers’ season was ended when Sendin’s penalty was saved.
Despite the loss, Red Scare cheered loudly for their team who had a fantastic season.
“For them to experience this was just tremendous,” said head coach Dennis Currier. “The senior class will never forget this for the rest of their lives. It just brings a stronger bond amongst them. It was a really good run and fun to be a part of.”