By David Tocco, Staff Writer

The University of Missouri–St. Louis men’s soccer team faced off against the #2 Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) ranked Knights from Bellarmine University October 23 and soared to victory, proving that the Tritons are a much stronger team than their record indicates. UMSL’s faithful came out in a strong show of support Friday night with their largest crowd of the year and let their support be heard, cheering their favorite team on to a dominant victory against a tough opponent.

The Triton men came out of the gate ferociously, scoring four goals in the first 25 minutes and nearly ripping the net from its iron foundation against a Bellarmine team that had only allowed five first half goals all season. The Triton scoring attack began a few minutes in with a magnificent header by forward DJ Bednar, junior, electrical engineering, off a long pass from 35 yards out from teammate Ryan Behnen, freshman, business administration. Bednar scored again (26:22) for his fifth goal of the season off a cross by Evan Garrad, junior, biochemistry.

The crowd went wild just a few minutes later as Triton captain Jon Huelsman, senior, physical education, blasted a penalty kick into the back of the net as the Knights keeper chose to dive in the wrong direction. This followed a Bellarmine handball in the box, no doubt an act of desperation. The Tritons were putting immense pressure on the Knights after several dangerous and well-placed corner kicks by Huelsman, who ended up taking four of UMSL’s five during the game.

Only a few minutes after the foul, Huelsman took another corner and assisted his teammate Tyler Collico, senior, accounting. This accounted for their third goal in only six minutes and made the score 4-0. On the goal, Collico said, “We’ve been working on corners the past couple weeks in practice, and I finally figured out where I need to be and mark up the goalie. Jonny hit a perfect ball right in there and I knew what I had to do.”

The fans and players settled into the match thereafter, confident that a Triton victory would be the end result. At seven minutes remaining in the first half, Bellarmine challenged UMSL goalie Jack Filla, junior, history, who would have netted their first goal if not for his diving effort, denying the Knight shot-on goal and maintaining the four goal lead. A couple minutes later, Filla jumped to grab the ball as Bellarmine threatened again with a dangerous lob into his box.

The Knights started the second half with a new goalie. The Tritons came out strong, but Bellarmine made a break and beat UMSL’s goalkeeper to bring the contest to a three-goal affair. The Tritons followed with a break up field from Chris Pearson, senior, early childhood education, who nearly scored the fifth UMSL goal of the contest. In the 54th minute, Bellarmine almost made it a two-goal game as they shot the ball into the back of the Triton net, but the goal was nullified because of a Bellarmine foul. Afterwards, the play was fairly even with back-and-forth opportunities from each team until the 66th minute when Collico buried his second goal of the match (and fourth of the season) following a perfect pass from teammate Connor Carnduff, senior, business administration. Collico broke down the goal, saying, “It was just kind of bouncing around and then Connor got it towards the top of the box and we made eye contact. He played me a perfect ball; I just turned and shot. I knew it was a new goalie and I had to test him so I just put it on frame and that’s what I had in mind.”

Bellarmine did not give up the fight despite the adversity, however. They placed another strong shot on goal which would have found the back of the net against most goalkeepers, but the skilled Filla made another great jump save to keep the game 5-1. The physicality increased and resulted in many scoring opportunities for both teams. Bellarmine did net one more goal, but it was too little, too late, as they fell to a confident UMSL team 2-5, much to the approval and delight of the fans in attendance. The Tritons improved to 7-6-2 overall (6-5-2 GLVC) after their second win in a row, heading into their final home game of the season on Sunday and second-to-last match before the GLVC tournament. Bellarmine dropped to 10-6.

After the game, Huelsman remarked about the significance of the victory, saying, “It was a big win for us. We’ve been looking for this win for a while. We’ve been grinding and we haven’t been getting results, but now we’ve finally got one and we’re ready to go.” Head Coach Dan King added, “I thought we came out ready to play one of the better teams in the GLVC. I thought Tyler [Collico] had a great game tonight. I think the whole team had a great one tonight.” He also said that his team “has put in a lot of work this season and they are peaking in time for a playoff run.”

UMSL hosted the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles on Sunday afternoon, closing out the home portion of its schedule. Prior to the contest, UMSL honored their eight seniors. For complete coverage and results of that match, visit thecurrent-online.com and umsltritons.com.

Notable statistics:

-Tyler Collico and DJ Bednar each racked up 2 goals.

-Bellarmine outshot the Tritons, 27-15, including 13-7 in shots on goal

-Bednar placed all three shot attempts on goal, while Collico had two shots on goal in three attempts. Huelsman also took three shots.

-Goalkeeper Jack Filla made seven saves and only allowing just one goal, playing 77 out of 90 minutes.

-Goalkeeper Jake Schmidt, sophomore, business administration, played 13 minutes and made three saves, allowing a goal.