The freshman class buzzed with excitement as they were led into Merlo Field by the booming Villa Maria Drum Squad. Painted, fully kilted, and bedecked in Pilot purple, the crowd made their way to the student section, filling it completely for the first time in almost two years.
Friday’s game was a new beginning for UP students and athletes alike, celebrated with a Pilots win.
The Pilots won 3-1 against the Corban University Warriors in the last men’s soccer exhibition of the summer, kicking off the school year and new season. The match represented a glimpse of what UP could look like post-pandemic.
The Warriors started strong, scoring the first point of the game within the first five minutes. But the Pilots quickly regained control of the game, doubling the Warriors in shots.
“It was exactly what we needed,” Head Coach Nick Carlin-Voigt said. “We got pushed in a good way — we came out and made one big mistake and they punished us, but we dominated the game.”
The Warriors held onto their 1-0 lead at the beginning of the second half, but the Pilots quickly took control of the ball. Overwhelming the Warriors’ goalkeeper, Pilots crowded in front of the net causing the Warriors to commit an own goal. Now tied, the Pilots were more aggressive towards the end of the match, maintaining their lead on shots.
“I was really proud of our guys when they stuck together and battled in the second half. They were electric and unified,” Carlin-Voigt said.
Junior forward Buba Fofanah kept the Warriors on their feet, with several close shots, but the second Pilot goal went to Luke Hendel, who was awarded a penalty shot following a Corban yellow card.
With 10 minutes on the clock, the Warriors brought it back, putting pressure on Pilot goalkeeper George Tasouris, but with no result.
Pilots regained control quickly, and with under five minutes left, fans exploded with excitement as midfielder Christoforos Kourtis scored with an assist from Fofonah. The Pilots ended the match with an impressive win under their belt, leading into an exciting season.
“The team’s a good attacking team, we have good ability to play between lines and behind lines,” Carlin-Voigt said. “I think those things make it dangerous.”
The Pilots’ win was witnessed by an invigorated student section, overflowing with energy and resounding cheers led by the Drum Squad. Other than the masks fans donned, the match felt almost like a pre-COVID-19 game.
“The fans were electric, and we haven't had that in two years. The community, that's what I'm excited about for this season,” Carlin-Voigt said.
The Pilots will begin their regular season next Friday in a double-header with the women’s soccer team at Merlo.
Sadie Wuertz is the Sports Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.