Omaha men’s soccer season comes to a close after loss in first round of NCAA Tournament 



Missouri State’s Javier Martin Gil blocks Omaha’s Wawa Palga after failing to headbutt a long kick. Photo by Andrew Smith

The Omaha Mavericks were forced out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round after a 1-0 loss to the Missouri State Bears. In the three times the program has reached the tournament, they have only made it out of the first round once. The Bears only allowed 11 goals on the season, and that total did not increase after their match with the Mavericks.

The Mavericks’ offense was unable to get into a rhythm in the first half as they could not gain control of possession. The Mavericks had possession for just 33% of the first half, which resulted in two total shots, none of which were on target. The Mavericks’ failure to advance the ball resulted in no first-half corners and no decent looks at the goal.

The Bears were on the offensive for the majority of the match, and that was especially true in the first half. Their relentless nature on both sides of the ball resulted in three shots, two of them being on target. One of the shots from Bears defender Mattia Petricca got past goalkeeper Nathanael Sallah for the only goal of the match, and the only goal Sallah allowed throughout the entire postseason.

Sallah had just one save in the first half, but it was an important save that kept the Mavericks in the game with just 10 minutes left before the break. Despite never getting a solid look at the goal, their sound defense kept Omaha in the match. The Mavericks’ one-point deficit resulted in a much more aggressive approach during the second half.

The Mavericks’ aggressive second-half approach was outlined by their 10 total shots. Omaha was able to even out possession as they held onto the ball for 47% of the second half. Seniors Gonzalo Cuevas and Maruki Kawahara were the main aggressors in the second half as they led the team with two shots each.

Despite Omaha’s aggressive approach resulting in four corners and three shots on target, they were not able to convert on any of them keeping the score at 1-0. The Mavericks had an attempt to equalize by converting on a corner kick with just two minutes left, but the header attempt from junior Theo Klein soared over the net.

A late yellow card on Bears forward Jon Koka gave the Mavericks one last-ditch effort. Sallah booted one into the box from midfield, but the Mavericks were unable to convert for one last time.

The 1-0 loss marked Sallah’s fifth loss of the season, putting his final record at 6-5-2. The first-round exit that concluded the Mavericks’ season moved them to 8-8-4 and marked their second loss this month. Missouri State will travel to California to take on the Stanford Cardinal in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.