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El-Shafei lifts DePaul over Butler in double overtime

Jack Higgins

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After 109 minutes played and double overtime against the Butler Bulldogs (9-5-1), it looked as though the DePaul men’s soccer team (8-6-2) would only take a single point away from their final home game Wednesday. However, DePaul freshman forward Zach El-Shafei found a deflected ball with less than 10 seconds left, and buried it into top left-hand corner of the goal.

“We got a free kick in the last 10 seconds or so, (. . .) the ref stopped the clock, Simon hit it over the wall, keeper made a save and it just popped out to me and I just hit it as hard as I could and hoped for the best,” El-Shafei said.

During both overtimes, between plays, Coach Craig Blazer could be heard shouting, “We need a win here boys!” This game, along with the other two games left in season, was do-or-die for the Blue Demons who were two points out of the Big East tournament.

The game began almost an hour and half behind schedule due to a lightning delay, and early on the slickness of the ball and field hindered both team from making crisp, clean passes back and forth. In the second minute of the match, a ball found its way to senior midfielder Simon Megally whose shot was deflected wide.

However, Butler dominated most of the first half, and it was DePaul’s junior goalkeeper Quentin Low who saw most of the action inside his box. In the 15th minute, he had his first of many tests.

Later in the half, it was all Butler. Butler forward David Goldsmith, the leading goal-scorer of the Big East, took three shots in three minutes spanning from the 33th to the 35th minute. The second of which Low had to dive to cover up after the original save.

Aside from Low, the DePaul defense played a big role in the shutout. In the freshman defender Max de Bruijne blocked a hard shot that likely would’ve been a goal. Sophomore defender John Freitag and junior midfielder Hans Wustling also contributed with key clears during the Bulldogs’ offensive push.

“It starts with just the tactical awareness of knowing where to be on the field,” Low said. “Max (de Bruijne) and John (Freitag) have been huge for us all year.”

At the half Low had already recorded five saves while DePaul had yet to test Butler’s keeper Eric Dick.

In the second half, the offensive attack was more balanced between teams, but penalties began to take their toll on each team. In the second, six yellow cards were pulled by the referee, three for each team.

Overall, the Blue Demons were outshot 19-8 and leaned too heavily on their defense. Like the last four games, including the 2-1 loss to Providence, DePaul’s defense has kept them in games. Because of this, DePaul has been content to generate offense quickly after long defensive stints, rather than log long minutes inside the other teams’ zone like they managed to do early in the season against non-conference teams. In the end, DePaul was able to generate a chance off of a handball.

“We let the team do a lot of the talking in (the time between) the two overtimes, and our leaders, Simon (Megally) and Kevin (Beyer), really stepped up,” Blazer said.

The game against Butler was also the return game for senior forward Erik Rodriguez, who was out with an injury against Providence. The senior generated a chance off of a give-and-go within two minutes of entering midway through the first half. Rodriguez’s health will be a huge factor the team in their two games on the road.

“It was a great team win,” Blazer said. The guys took the loss hard against Providence, and to get this three points against a quality Butler team that has been ranked nationally all year (. . .) shows a lot of what we are (as a team).”

The Blue Demons will finish off their season at St. John’s (6-5-4) Saturday and at Marquette (4-5-4) Nov. 3.

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El-Shafei lifts DePaul over Butler in double overtime