Blue Demons Rev Up for Stretch Run
Oct. 25, 2011
CHICAGO - It's been quite a journey for these young Blue Demons whose 13 freshmen and 10 sophomores have persevered through the ups and downs that accompany the inexperienced while hanging tight through the growing pains.
And now, it has come down to this.
Two final matches will determine the fate of the 2011 men's soccer team beginning with a noon showdown on Wednesday against No. 22 Louisville at Wish Field.
Talented Louisville (8-5-2, 1-4-2 in the BIG EAST) is two points behind DePaul (5-9-2, 2-4-1) in the five-team race for the final three playoff spots.
After that, Syracuse (3-10-1, 1-5-1) comes to Wish Field on Saturday, and the Orange trail DePaul by three points.
Who could have imagined that a program regularly starting six freshmen and four sophomores would develop so quickly into a BIG EAST Conference playoff contender?
These same youngsters that lost 4-0 at Western Illinois turned around and beat Northwestern 4-0.
These same youngsters took fourth-ranked Creighton into double overtime before succumbing 1-0.
"All of our guys, they know what it's all about," DePaul coach Craig Blazer said about the playoff race. "These guys can see the potential is there to become a top team. They saw it in their performance against Creighton.
"They believe they can win any game, and they understand the difference between winning and losing can come down to a single play."
They were undaunted last Saturday heading into the lair of then-No. 12/9 St. John's.
"Against St. John's, they believed we could go on the road and win against a nationally ranked team---and they executed that belief in the first half," Blazer said. "They couldn't maintain that level in the second half against a program that has more athleticism and talent.
"St. John's made more plays than we did. That's not a negative, just a reality."
DePaul could be in for more of the same on Wednesday.
"Louisville will be a similar challenge as St. John's," Blazer said. "Player for player, they are very talented and will be one of the most athletic teams we've faced.
"Every player off their bench can contribute, and there is no drop-off in the team's form and athleticism when their subs come in. Remember, this is a program that was one goal away from winning the national championship last year."
The Cardinals have outscored teams 24-13 and outshot opponents 281-156. They are launching nearly 19 shots per game. The 2010 NCAA Championship runner-up holds a 99-56 advantage in shots on goal and an 83-47 edge in corner kicks.
Kenney Walker leads Louisville with four goals and three assists while Colin Rolfe has three goals and five assists. Goalkeeper Andre Boudreaux has seven shutouts and a 0.83 goals-against average.
"The exciting thing this season is how we've developed the pairing of Antonio Aguilar and David Selvaggi," Blazer said about the Blue Demon duo that has accounted for 67 percent of the scoring with seven goals apiece. "Their combined speed and ability to work together has resulted in a highly successful pairing.
"Now, there's an opportunity against Louisville for someone else to step up besides Tony and David."
"There is now an overall understanding that every play matters," Blazer said. "They have become more responsible for taking care of themselves and the players around them.
"They are learning what it takes to play at this level. We had some guys play their best game of the season against St. John's.
"To beat a team like Louisville, we need all the guys to play their best game of the season."
BLUE DEMON QUICK KICKS
As a team, DePaul is second in the BIG EAST in saves with 74.
Aguilar is fifth in the conference in points with 18 and Selvaggi is tied for eighth with 14.
Aguilar is tied for eighth in assists in the BIG EAST with four.
Aguilar is fifth in the BIG EAST in shots with 49.
Eric Sorby is fourth in the conference in saves per game at 4.36.
Sorby is eighth in saves (48) and tied for ninth in save percentage (.750).
A group of students from St. Clement's School will be attending Wednesday's match against Louisville.
A total of 130 students from the America Scores youth empowerment and educational organization and the Chicago Public Schools' Urban Initiatives program will be cheering on the Blue Demons Saturday against Syracuse.