Little Giants Rebound After Loss to No. 22 OWU, Defeat DePauw 2-1
A game against the local rivals is always special, but this particular game could not have come at a more pivotal moment for the Little Giants. Wabash (11-5-1) came into their match against DePauw (10-7) fifth in the standings, two points behind the Tigers and outside of the play-offs. A DePauw victory, then, would have ended Wabash’s chances of making the NCAC tournament.
Wabash certainly came into Wednesday’s game on the back foot. Last Saturday, the Little Giants traveled to 22-ranked Ohio Wesleyan University. Second in the NCAC standings, the Battling Bishops were always going to prove a tough opponent. After a scoreless first half, Ohio Wesleyan scored two goals early in the second period. The final score, Ohio Wesleyan 2-0 Wabash.
Heading into the game against DePauw, players and fans alike knew the reality: a loss would knock Wabash out of the play-offs for good. The opening twenty minutes were a nervous affair. The best early chance fell at the feet of Coledon Johnson ’23 who, in the 18th minute, had his shot blocked. Eventually, it was Wabash who emerged as the dominant side. Hugo Garcia ’23 and Quinn Leous ’23 played notably well in the first period, the latter playing more as a wing-back than a full-back with his sweeping runs down the right side.
The first goal of the game came in the 32nd minute. With a great piece of individual play, Johnson got hold of the ball in the area with his back turned to goal. The DePauw defenders all stopped in their tracks and shouted for a foul, but Johnson played to the whistle and turned to score with a wonderful half-volley that left the goalie puzzled. The Tigers pleaded to the referee but to no avail, and the goal stood.
However, Wabash’s celebrations were short-lived. DePauw clawed their way back into the game heading into the half. On the stroke of halftime, DePauw equalized. From a free kick on the edge of the area, Joel Thompkins set up Clay Troyer who, one-on-one with Bertram in the Wabash goal, tucked the ball into the back of the net. The half time score, Wabash 1-1 DePauw.
If Wabash fans had half time doubts, they need not have worried. The defining moment of the game came in the 66th minute when Tim Herring ’22 whipped in a corner from the right flank. As the ball floated into the area, it seemed to hit a number of bodies before Solomon Davis ’22 poked it home to give Wabash the lead. After the goal, DePauw had a couple of half chances, but at the final whistle, the score remained Wabash 2-1 DePauw.
At that moment, a wave of scarletclad supporters descended onto the field and surrounded the Little Giants players in celebration.
“I think we handled it really well,” said Davis, scorer of the winning goal. On his goal, he added, “it was a bit surreal seeing the crowd go crazy. Before the game, Coach drew up our plan: on the cross we would go behind, somebody would go on the far post, and I was right there.”
Wabash wrap-up their regular season games tomorrow as they travel to Oberlin. With both Oberlin and Wooster losing their respective matches midweek, the Little Giants would guarantee themselves a playoff spot should they beat the Yeomen. A tie could also get them into the NCAC tournament if other results go their way. After such a dominant performance on Wednesday night, it would take a cruel turn of fate to deny Wabash a well-earned play-off position.