Men’s soccer to league semis after 1-0 home win


Elyse Gregory

Austin Ricci scored the lone goal assisted by AJ Shaw leading the Golden Grizzlies to the Horizon League Semifinals Monday night at the Oakland soccer field.

It’s off to the semifinals again. No. 4 Oakland men’s soccer (7-10-0, 5-4-0) beat No. 5 Green Bay (5-10-2, 4-3-2) 1-0 in the Horizon League quarterfinals at the Oakland Soccer Field on Monday, Nov. 7. Oakland midfielder Austin Ricci scored the sole goal in the 37th minute.

Oakland will play No. 1 Wright State (11-5-2, 7-1-1) at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 10, in Dayton, Ohio.

“It’s just survive and advance at this stage,” said Oakland head coach Eric Pogue. “We’ve been here before. We know what it takes. We’ve been in the league four years, and we’ve been in the final four of the conference tournament every single year. No other team in the league can say that. Even with replacing ten starters, we’re still a force to be reckoned with.”

Ricci began the onslaught for Oakland in the fifth minute with a rip from the top right of the 18-yard box. Green Bay goalkeeper Kyle Ihn got low and grabbed it.

In the 14th minute, it was Ricci again with a chip above the goal. The shot came after Oakland’s biggest offensive threat yet, which contained a couple more shots.

A screaming shot by Oakland forward Nebojsa Popovic in the 16th nailed teammate and midfielder Alex Serwatka. It looked like it hit Serwatka’s leg. He had gone down two times in Friday’s 5-2 win against No. 2 University of Illinois at Chicago.

Through the 17th minute, Oakland controlled the game, barely receiving any threats from Green Bay. Three or four shots from the Golden Grizzlies bounced off bodies.

Ricci broke through in the 37th minute. After a cross from Serwatka, the play centered around the right side of the goal for 10 seconds. In the mess, Ricci put it in. Freshman defender AJ Shaw got the assist.

“I just knew, when I got the ball, that I had two guys on my back, so I tried my best to turn them,” Ricci said. “It was successful. I knew the goalie wouldn’t be expecting a  shot from where I was, so I just caught him off-guard and hit it.”

Oakland outshot Green Bay 13-4 in the first half.

“We’ve done really well all year with our outside backs getting around our outside mids and getting that early service in,” Shaw said. “[Worked] really well against UIC [on Friday]. We created a lot of chances, and we were like, why don’t we just keep doing it?”

But tables turned at the half, and Green Bay outshot the Golden Grizzlies 10-4 in the second period.

“Going in the second half, we wanted to be aggressive,” Pogue said. “But I think human nature kicks into the guys and they want to be defensive-minded, and they don’t want to give up too many opportunities. So we sat back a little deeper than we would have liked to.”

Oakland freshman goalkeeper Liam McQueenie recorded his second shutout of the season. But he wasn’t that nervous.

“Now that I think I’ve become more comfortable with the team and with the atmosphere around here, I think it’s just second nature, to be honest,” he said.

The Phoenix had one last opportunity with ten seconds left in the game, but McQueenie punched the ball out and ended the game.

Ricci ended the night with four shots on goal, Popovic one. Like McQueenie, Ihn made four saves. Green Bay got three yellow cards in the game, Oakland one.

Freshman defender Nyal Higgins will be back for the semifinals after missing this game from having too many cards on the season. He and Popovic were named to the All-Horizon League Freshman Team.

The team has a brief turnaround before Thursday’s 7 p.m. ET game. Time to just rest and recover, Pogue said.

“This time of the year, it’s not rocket science,” he said. “You’re not going to teach them anything that they don’t know already. And actually, sometimes as coaches, I think we complicate things a little bit for them . . . We’re just going to take it one game at a time and worry about Saturday after Thursday.”