Struggles at home prep Pilots for conference play

By The Beacon | September 7, 2011 9:00pm

Sophomore midfielder Thomas Iwasaki makes an offensive drive followed closely by FGCU players. Though the Pilots controlled the ball for much of the game, the Eagles were able to score in the 85th minute, ultimately resulting in a tie. (Kayla Wong -- The Beacon)

By Kyle Cape-Lindelin Staff Writer

Standing on the sideline waiting for your chance to shine as an athlete is hard for anyone. Being the man to take over for Austin Guerrero, one of the best goalkeepers in UP history, is a whole different story, as junior Justin Baarts knows.

Baarts spent two years doing just that as he watched Guerrero tie for the most career saves as a Pilot.

"I really learned a lot from Austin, he taught me how to be a leader and be the defensive captain that a goalkeeper needs to be," Baarts said.

While Baarts made nine athletic, very savvy saves over the weekend, the likes of which Pilot fans were used to seeing from Guerrero, a few still managed to get past.

Once they fell behind, the Pilots simply couldn't match the energy on offense as they finished the weekend hosting the Nike Invitational tying Florida Gulf Coast University 1-1 and losing to Loyola Chicago University 3-0.

"Both teams are very good in their own right, you have to give them credit," head coach Bill Irwin said. "We have to be more prepared, stick to our game plan and recover."

The Pilots controlled the first game of the weekend against Florida Gulf Coast University for most of regulation, taking advantage of their skill and keeping the ball away from FGCU's taller, more athletic players. The Pilots couldn't get on the board in the first half, but they managed to grind through, relying on Baarts for defense especially with his diving, one-handed grab in the 30th minute to stop a shot that seemed destined to go in.

Junior defender Keith Grubisich finally took advantage of an opportunity in the 59th minute off a pass from senior forward Connor Barbaree and shot it in as the FGCU goalkeeper dove and missed it.

The game seemed wrapped up until the 85th minute when FGCU managed to sneak a goal past a leaping Baarts to tie the game 1-1. Despite multiple shots by the Pilots and two overtime periods, neither team was able to score another goal and the game ended in a tie 1-1.

"We were looking good the whole game, but we left them just a little bit of room. I'm very disappointed we couldn't get the win," Irwin said.

The Pilots were not so lucky in their game against the Loyola Chicago Ramblers, as a turn of fortunes took place in the 39th minute when Barbaree narrowly missed a goal off the cross bar, setting up a Rambler goal off a deflection only seconds later to put Loyola Chicago in the lead 1-0.

The Ramblers padded their lead three minutes later with one more goal before halftime. Another Rambler goal in the second half put the game on ice and handed UP their first loss.

"This was a tough game, but we have to learn from it," Grubisich said. "Our conference is just as physical as these two teams were so we have to push through the pain and do our jobs."

The Pilots' next challenge is traveling to the Northern Illinois Adidas Invitational where they first face off against Northwestern on Sept. 9 at 12:30 p.m. On Sunday, the Pilots go to battle against Northern Illinois at 9 a.m.

Both teams are going to be tough matches for the Pilots, as Northwestern recorded a tie with No. 7 California and NIU has already beaten both Michigan and Michigan State.