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Dons Defeated by Santa Clara, Draw Against St. Mary’s in Moraga

The San Francisco Dons bounced back from a tough loss to Santa Clara on Friday, tying the Saint Mary’s Gaels 1-1 on Sunday afternoon in Moraga, CA.

Sophomore forward Miguel Aguilar’s goal in the 57th minute gave the Dons a 1-0 lead that they were unable to hold on to, as the Gaels’ Trevor Newquist found the net on a header in the 80th minute.

The tie gave USF a 5-7-4 (3-5-2 WCC) record on the season, while Saint Mary’s moved to 9-3-5 (5-2-3 WCC).

After a scoreless first half, the Dons rushed out of the gate and began the second 45-minute period by putting pressure on the Gaels defense. The result was a goal and a chance to secure what many would consider an upset win, but following Aguilar’s successful shot, Saint Mary’s mounted an attack of their own. They seized the momentum and found the elusive equalizer that they were looking for just 10 minutes away from what could have been a victory for the Dons. Instead, the teams battled through two overtime periods, with neither squad able to capitalize on their opportunities.

The Dons, having played their last road game of the year, will finish the season with two upcoming home games against Gonzaga on Nov. 9, and Portland on Nov. 11. Returning to Negoesco Stadium gives San Francisco a chance to end the season on an upswing, as they have amassed a 3-3-1 record at home this year, compared to just 2-4-3 on the road.

Although USF settled for a tie against Saint Mary’s, the result was a definite improvement upon the heartbreaking 1-0 loss that the Dons suffered at the hands of the Santa Clara Broncos on Friday night in San Francisco.

Phillip Muscarella’s header in the 86th minute of Friday’s match found the back of the net and prevented the game from advancing into an overtime period. Santa Clara improved to 10-6-1 (7-2-1 WCC) on the season, and the Dons were unable to win for the fourth game in a row.

The first half of the match was evenly played and defense-oriented as neither team was presented with any breakaway chances to score. The tempo and action picked up in the second half, as sophomore midfielders Danny Kirkland and Kyle Macleod nearly gave USF the lead, but the Broncos goalkeeper Larry Jackson held steady and protected the goal. Late in the second period, Santa Clara’s offense launched a ferocious attack and threatened Dons goalkeeper Brendan Roslund on multiple occasions. After a persistent defensive stand from San Francisco, the attack unfortunately culminated in Muscarella’s goal, his first of the season, which came off of a well-placed cross from Harrison Hanley and shattered the Dons’ hopes of emerging from the match with a tie or victory.

“We know we’re a dangerous team,” Roslund said. “We’re just waiting for the game when we break through and score goals by the bunches.”

The Dons, who were outshot 11 to 10 by Santa Clara, looked to gain an advantage in the 75th minute when the Broncos’ Jared Hegart was red-carded. However, even playing with a man down, Santa Clara remained aggressive and offense-focused, and after many close calls the Dons defense finally allowed the go-ahead goal.

A positive aspect of USF’s play was their ability to neutralize Broncos leading goal-scorer Erik Hutardo, who was unable to score despite his five attempts on goal.

Due to their struggles in recent games, the Dons feel that they have something to prove in their last three matches of the year.

“We need to have some personal pride as a team, and we need to go out with a strong ending to these last few games,” Roslund said.

With their well-played 1-1 tie against Saint Mary’s on Sunday and two winnable games next weekend, the Dons are on their way to doing just that.