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Men’s soccer hopes for season turnaround after ending goal drought

<p>Tiger freshman midfielder Mason Morise has been responsible for all three Memphis goals (one goal, two assists) this season.&nbsp;</p>
Tiger freshman midfielder Mason Morise has been responsible for all three Memphis goals (one goal, two assists) this season. 

Saturday evening’s home contest against the UCF Knights (3-3-1, 0-0-1 AAC) began much like the rest of the season has for the University of Memphis men’s soccer team. The team entered the game 0-5-1 on the season, with no goals scored in more than five games, and when the Knights put the ball in the back of the net for the second time in the 53rd minute, the outcome looked grim.

But this time was different for the Tigers, and the team struck twice within six minutes after not doing so once in more than 588 to level the game and eventually walk away with a 2-2 draw. Now, with a home game against Central Arkansas (1-7) Wednesday evening, the team has a chance to build some real momentum for the first time all year before conference play ramps up.

“In a couple games the energy is just sapped out of you,” coach Richard Mulrooney said about the team’s reaction to going down early in a match. “My first instinct after they got the second goal was how are our guys going to respond to this? The guys responded well. I couldn’t have asked for a better response, and obviously it sort of shook the beehive a little bit.”

The two Memphis goals came off of assists by Tiger freshman midfielder Mason Morise, who put the ball across the goal for Jacob Krupp for the first goal in the 61st minute, and then whipped in a cross at the far post for Raul Gonzalez who put it in the back of the net seven minutes later. Morise scored the Tigers’ first goal of the season against UAB on Aug. 28, and has been involved in all three of Memphis’ goals this season.

The draw came in the Tigers first home contest since Aug. 31, and gives the team a draw to start the American Athletic Conference schedule after a non-conference slate that saw the team go winless with only one goal in six matches.

Before the conference games resume, the Tigers will play Central Arkansas at home at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening at Mike Rose Soccer Complex, and it’s an excellent opportunity for the team to finally earn its first win of the season. UCA is only 1-7 on the season with some of the losses coming by massive score lines, such as an 8-1 loss to Incarnate Word and a 5-0 loss to the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“We’re not fools here — We know we don’t have a win in the column yet, but having said that I also know that UCA is seeing us as not having a win either,” Mulrooney said. “Looking at their results, they might be a little bit unfortunate, but you could look at ours and say the same thing. Bottom line is we have to respect the opponent tomorrow night, come out and yes, it’s a game that we’re not looking to tie, it’s a game that we need to get a result.”

The UCA game represents what could be a pivotal moment in the season for Memphis. With a win the Tigers would be entering the bulk of the conference slate with two draws, a win and a loss on the road to a nationally ranked Louisville team in their last four games. However, if the Tigers were to drop the game, or worse, lose without scoring a goal, some of the confidence gained from the UCF draw could be lost as the team enters its most important stretch of the season.

“A win tomorrow night would give us a lot of confidence going into UConn,” Mulrooney said. “I wouldn’t say that if we were to take a tie or a loss that we’d fold and just wrap it up for the season, but as we saw the other night with just that tie you can see how the confidence builds, and I can only imagine how high it’s going to get if we were to get a win tomorrow night.”

After playing UCA the Tigers return to the road, where they’ll play UConn (3-2-3, 0-1-0 AAC) Oct. 3 before returning home to play a dangerous SMU squad (5-2-2, 1-0-0 AAC) four days later.

Tiger freshman midfielder Mason Morise has been responsible for all three Memphis goals (one goal, two assists) this season. 

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