In a rematch of the first round of the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the result was almost identical to four months ago when the Washington men’s soccer team ended Grand Canyon’s season.
On Friday night at Husky Soccer Stadium a fairly even match on the stat sheet was much different in the final scoreline, as No. 5 Washington had just a bit more quality in front of goal, defeating Grand Canyon, 2-0 courtesy a brace from redshirt junior Lukas Meek.
“I was very nervous going into this one because I feel like they circled this game on their calendar,” head coach Jamie Clark said. “We ended their season and wanted another shot at us, so our guys walked away not really remembering how hard a game it was by seeing the 2-0 result. It was almost the same game tonight, 2-0, a really hard game, but we got the goals at the right time.”
Following an opening 58 minutes, in which the stats were nearly identical between the Huskies (3-0) and Lopes (2-1) at five shots and three corners a piece, something had to give.
On their sixth shot of the night, the Huskies finally got a ball into the back of the net off of a long throw in from freshman Kalani Kossa-Rienzi. Redshirt senior Ryan Sailor got the first touch near the corner of the box when the ball glanced off his head right to Meek, who headed the ball home to give Washington a 1-0 lead.
“We create chances, and I think chances are more important that possession and we get the ball into places where we score goals,” Clark said. “Sometimes it means we get less on the ball, but I feel like we create more opportunities. Sometimes, if you tilt the scale far enough, it’s going to go your way.”
It would be all the UW needed in the game, as it took home a narrow victory to remain undefeated on the season.
But early on in the match, things unfolded much differently.
For the first 30 minutes, the Lopes had a majority of the opportunities in front of goal, with three shots and two on frame.
The most threatening of those opportunities came in the 27th minute when the UW defense broke down on a GCU cross that landed at the feet of Cameron Weller. Washington goalkeeper Sam Fowler made a lunging save, tapping the ball just wide of the near goalpost to keep the game scoreless. On the ensuing corner kick, Fowler came up big again, punching the ball out of the box and into safety.
Five minutes later, the Huskies had a few opportunities of their own.
In the 33rd minute, a flurry of activity in front of the GCU goal seemed almost inevitable to end in a Washington goal, but Meek’s shot was cleared off the line, keeping the game scoreless. Three minutes later, the Huskies had another chance when junior Dylan Teves lined up a dangerous shot from outside of the box, but GCU goalkeeper Rafael Guerrero tapped the ball over the crossbar.
The Huskies opened the second half with momentum from the first, eventually getting their game-winning goal in the 58th minute off the head of Meek, who wasn’t quite done for the night.
Meek scored his second goal in the 83rd minute in impressive style, shooting a ball from 40 yards out over the head of Guerrero, who was foolishly too far off his line.
“Meek’s one of the craftiest players I’ve played with,” Fowler said. “I had a feeling. I thought from my angle it might hit the post but I was really glad to see it hit the back of the net.”
Although the 2-0 lead proved plenty, the Lopes weren’t going down without a fight. Fowler made another quality save just moments after Meek’s goal to ensure the UW’s second consecutive shutout.
“After that second goal, the first thing I did was talk to our back line and said ‘We need to keep this clean sheet’,” Fowler said. “In that game, if they get a goal right after that second one, it’s a whole different story.”
With just seconds remaining in the game, Meek nearly scored a hat trick, lunging for a header and injuring his left shoulder in the process.
Lying on the pitch when the final buzzer sounded, the injury leaves Meek’s status for next Friday’s game against Dartmouth uncertain, but he was able to walk around the field for photos and autographs after the game after receiving medical attention.
The match with Dartmouth on Friday, Sept. 10 will kick off at 7 p.m. at Husky Soccer Stadium.
Reach Co-Sports Editor Anthony Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb
Like what you’re reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donating here.