Making their transition into NCAA Division I, the Grand Canyon University men's soccer team is sporting a perfect 1-0 record following their 2-1 defeat of Nebraska-Omaha, members of the Summit League. The Antelopes handed the Mavericks a loss in their season- and home-opener at the UNO Soccer Field in Nebraska, Omaha.
GCU is embarking on its first season as members of the Western Athletic Conference, which is sponsoring men's soccer for the first time in 14 years.
"This is a historic win for our men's soccer program, and it win means the world to me, and it means the world to these kids," said head coach Petar Draksin. "We have a long road ahead of us with 18 games to play, but we will enjoy this and be proud of this accomplishment. We will get back to work tomorrow when we land in Chicago."
In his first game for the 'Lopes after missing the past two seasons due to injury, forward Kyle Ciliento was an offensive force, accounting for both of GCU's goals in the contest. Ciliento was also responsible for all three of GCU's shots on goal.
"Kyle's goals were great," said Draksin. "The best thing about it was that they (UNO) tied it up on a handball that we made a mistake on, and we responded right away. That shows the character of this program. We are extremely proud of the effort that these young men displayed today."
GCU took the first shot of the game just five minutes in, but the Mavericks responded with five shots of their own, four of which were on goal, over the next nine minutes. Ciliento put GCU's first shot on goal via a header ball in the 30th minute, but UNO goalkeeper Matt Grosey picked up his first save of the game.
Ciliento then broke the scoreless tie in the 34th minute on an assist from Kyle Summerhill following a GCU free kick, which would serve as the lone score of the half.
The Mavericks held the advantage in shots (8-4) and shots on goal (4-2), but GCU keeper Joshua Zehring was effective in recording three saves in the first 45 minutes.
UNO knotted the score at one with a penalty kick in the 66th minute, but not 20 seconds later, Ciliento once again found the back of the net on a shot from the right side, assisted by Gerrit Thomes.
The Mavericks took five shots in the game's final 10 minutes in an effort to equalize the score once again, but were unsuccessful as the 'Lopes defense blocked two of those attempts.
For the game, UNO outshot GCU by a margin of 18-6, with six of those placed on goal. Zehring finished the contest with four saves.
"Josh made some good saves, but as a whole, we still made some mistakes individually," Draksin said. "That being said, I think we responded very well."
GCU will now head over to Loyola University Chicago, members of the Missouri Valley Conference, for the second game of their 12-day road trip. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. (Arizona time) on Monday, Sept. 2. Fans can follow the action via live stats by visiting www.gculopes.com.
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