Saint Louis will go into Saturday September 21’s game away to the University of Connecticut on the back of a week that saw them take their first loss of the season, but the #13 ranked Bilikens are adamant that past results will count for nothing against one of the top teams in the country.
UConn is without a win in two games after a 0-0 tie against Washington and a 1-0 loss to Bradley, but Mike McGinty believes that his Saint Louis side will face something of a backlash at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.
“I wish [UConn] had won both of them, so that we could sneak in when they maybe aren’t on their guard,” McGinty said. “This early in the season, there are a lot of really strange results and I don’t think those two results are any indication of the quality they have on the field or how strong their team is.
“I think that everybody in these early days are still trying to figure themselves out a little bit and occasionally you get some funky scorelines. We’re certainly not looking at it and saying ‘Oh yeah, they’re really down this week’ because of what happened last week.”
McGinty’s side travel to play the Huskies, who were ranked #3 in the NSCAA poll on September 10, and the Bilikens’ Head Coach believes it will be an intriguing clash.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I think it’s a really good game for both programs. Both teams try to play, I’ve got a lot of respect for the way UConn plays and how they go about their business. I think the fans at the game will get their money’s worth, I think you’ll see two teams that try to play the game in the right way. They try to get the ball and move it, and I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun.”
The Bilikens lost for the first time this season on September 11, going down 2-1 to Evansville in double overtime. However, they made amends days later on September 14 by beating Denver 1-0 to improve their record to 4-1-0 in what has been a very impressive start.
“It was tough emotionally, because we probably played better against Evansville and found a way to lose the match,” McGinty said. “We were going for the win, there were 30 seconds left, we ended up turning the ball over and going down in a heartbreaking fashion.
“The good thing about college soccer is you get to play a couple of days later and get back on the horse so it was an important mental game for us against Denver. Denver is a good team, there were a lot of things to deal with, but I think the biggest thing for our group was getting back into it and getting themselves a W.”
Junior goalkeeper Nick Shackelford has earned rave reviews, having kept three shutouts already this season as Saint Louis has built a strong defense, and McGinty believes this stability at the back is a large factor in their recent good results.
“To be honest, we’ve only given up a couple of goals against Evansville which I think we could all have done a little bit better on,” McGinty said. “I think everybody doing their parts defensively definitely helps each and every game.
“Nick’s been sharp for us when he’s had to, and there have been large portions of games where he’s had very little to do so I think collectively we’re pretty sound defensively. We could always be a little better but we would like to think we could get shutouts week-in, week-out.”
The Bilikens have enjoyed a superb start to the season, coming off a 2012 season that saw them win the Atlantic 10 title and take the #8 seed at that year’s College Cup. However, McGinty and his players are hopeful they can improve on what was a strong showing last year and have spent a great deal of time building towards that.
“Every team in America wants to go further, other than Indiana,” he said. “Everybody wants to go further, and that’s been the message throughout last spring and the summer: ‘Well done last year, what can we improve upon?’
“Everybody within the group has set their own individual goals to be a little bit higher than they were last year, and the team has got a couple of goals to push ourselves and get better and make a better run in the playoffs this year.”
Chris Teale is a contributing writer for College Soccer News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Chris_teale.