Soccer heads to tournament after perfect season

Men's Soccer v Green Bay

Aris Zafeiratos moves the ball in Saturday’s win. Photo: Timothy Nguyen/UIC News

The Flames host the semifinals and final rounds of the Horizon League Championship at Flames Field beginning Friday after finishing the season with an unblemished Horizon League record.

The soccer team captured its ninth-straight win Saturday, 2-1, against Green Bay at Flames Field. The game marked UIC’s 15th regular-season win, a program best.

“When you go into post-season play, you always want to be feeling good about yourself and there is no better way to do it than by getting a win,” head coach Sean Phillips said.

The Flames picked up several Horizon League awards: senior Bob Novak, 2013 Horizon League Co-Player of the Year (shared with Milwaukee’s Laurie Bell); senior Josh Beard, Defensive Player of the Year; freshman Andrew Putna, Freshman and Goalkeeper of the Year; and Phillips, Coach of the Year.

“It is always great to see individual members of your team deservedly recognized for their accomplishments over the course of the season,” Phillips said.

Nine Flames were named tothe All-League First Team, All-League Second Team and All-Freshmen Team.

The honors mark the first time in program history that five Flames represent the field of 11 on the All-League First Team, as seniors Slobodan Aleksov, Beard and Novak, junior Jesus Torres and Putna picked up this year’s honors. Sophomore Thomas Villamil collected the All-League Second Team nomination, while freshmen Gonzalo Romo, Kyle Hamann and Putna were named to the All-Freshman Team.

“These individual awards reflect the tremendous amount of work put in by each member of this team thus far.  While individual awards are nice, team accomplishments are the most gratifying and what it is really all about to this group.”

UIC improves to 15-3-0 overall, with a 7-0-0 record in the Horizon League for the most conference wins in program history, in addition to the first undefeated season against conference opponents.

Green Bay moved to 7-7-3 on the season and 2-4-1 in the Horizon League.

The Flames battled in the first half to find and keep possession and create their chances. Junior Jesus Torres fired off three shots to contribute to the Flames’ total of nine, as the Phoenix made three attempts.

UIC came out with urgency in the second half, collecting the first goal in the 55th minute when freshman Joel Leon netted his first career goal off a pass from sophomore Joel Salmeron. After several attempts, Green Bay tied the game in the 79th minute.

“We got the goal and we had a couple of other chances to make it 2-0, but there is a reason Green Bay has not been shut out often this year and they proved it again today — they are a great attacking team,” Phillips said.

Sophomore Jorge Alvarez headed in a pass from senior Aris Zafeiratos in the 84th minute for his fourth goal of the season and the game-winner.

Putna made four saves during the contest for a .770 save percentage this season, while allowing one goal for a 0.76 goals against average.

“I think the biggest thing was that it was good to get a win against a good opponent going into the playoffs, because everyone is 0-0-0 starting Friday,” Phillips said.

The Flames kick off the Horizon League Championship on Friday in the semifinals, when they host the lowest remaining seed from the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. at Flames Field.

Visit uicflames.com for the tournament schedule.

“For this group to get to where they want to go, we are going to have to be 1-0 on Friday and 1-0 on Sunday, and the games just get tougher and tougher as we go forward,” Phillips said.

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