Carnegie Mellon men's soccer team finds winning equation
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It doesn't take a Carnegie Mellon math whiz to figure out that shutouts translate into wins.
The Tartans men's soccer team is racking up lots of both this fall as all seven of its victories have come via shutout.
“We take pride in playing defense,” said junior outside back Brandon Peck, a Central Catholic graduate. “It's a mentality. (Shutouts) are something to look forward to each and every game.”
No. 18 Carnegie Mellon (7-1) is tied for first in NCAA Division III in shutouts and ranks third with a 0.24 goals-against average. The Tartans have outscored opponents 14-2, with the only goals allowed coming in a 2-1 overtime loss Sept. 7 at Dickinson. Since then, Carnegie Mellon has recorded five consecutive shutouts.
“We're really starting to take off here,” said senior goalkeeper Christopher Madden, who has four shutouts and was part of a team shutout against Bethany on Saturday. “It's really more about the back four doing their jobs. I haven't really been tested all that much this year so far.”
The back four features Peck and senior Ben Bryant on the outside, with juniors Jakob Rohwer and Mark Nicholas in the middle.
“I think a lot of the guys are just willing to put the work in,” Madden said. “They're going for a lot of challenging balls. They're really putting themselves on the line to make some plays. We're also getting a lot of backtracking from the midfielders, which really helps out with the coverage.”
Madden said it's his job to keep the defense organized — “pushing the resources we have in the back around,” as he puts it. It also helps that all four defenders are returning starters.
“We know how each other is going to play,” Peck said. “We know when to drop and when to step (forward). I think that's very important to be well-versed with each other.”
Success is nothing new to the Tartans, who have reached the NCAA Tournament in three of the past five years under coach Arron Lujan. Carnegie Mellon rose to as high as fourth in the rankings last season and advanced to the second round of NCAAs. That squad, though, allowed 22 goals in 18 games, and the Tartans pledged to trim its goals-against average this fall.
So far, so good. Tougher opponents await, including five games in the traditionally strong University Athletic Association, but Madden said the string of shutouts will pay dividends.
“When you start moving into the UAA and the NCAA Tournament, the margin for error gets really small,” he said. “There's a different feel to it when it's a 1-0 game. I believe when you get into an NCAA Tournament game when it's high stakes, all of those games are going to be really close. Any situation (during the regular season) when it's a 1-0 shutout, and we have to close the game out, it's really going to help us.”
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.
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