Above photo: Xjavier Martinez with the ball in UMHB’s preseason exhibition against Angelina College. Martinez scored UMHB’s first goal of the season on Friday. (Photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com).
CONWAY, Ark.- Earlier in the week, UMHB men’s soccer head coach Ben Allen noted that Rhodes College was a tough opponent, and the Lynx had finished the 2022 season with plenty of ties on their record; six, to be exact.
Friday evening’s season opener between UMHB and Rhodes ended in the same fashion, with a 1-1 draw in a hard-fought contest by both sides.
Xjavier Martinez, a Pflugerville, Texas native, and transfer from UT-Tyler, netted UMHB’s lone goal in the contest, finding the back of the net in the game’s 78th minute. Rhodes took a 1-0 lead three minutes prior on Jason Viani’s goal, but Martinez answered with a counter.
With UMHB on the attack, he deflected a high pass off his chest, letting it hit the ground just before turning and firing a shot off his right foot that sailed past Rhodes goalkeeper Nate Slota and into the lower left side of the goal.
It knotted the score at one apiece, and despite a handful of chances late, neither side broke through with another score. Rhodes had a chance late, with less than 30 seconds in regulation, but a hurried shot from Jackson Thelen missed wide right.
UMHB’s back line was tested for much of the contest, and fared well, limiting the Lynx’s scoring opportunities. On one occasion with less than eight minutes remaining, UMHB forward Michael Myers ended up racing down the field one-on-one with a Rhodes attacker. Myers forced a tough shot that went wide left, eliminating the scoring threat.
- Xjavier Martinez’s goal was the first of the regular season for The Cru. 2023 is the second straight season in which a newcomer has recorded the first score of the year, as freshman Jack Bryan found the back of the net in the 31st minute against Houston-Victoria last season.
- This is the first time since Aug.30, 2019 that UMHB has begun the season with a tie, having played Southwestern to a 1-1 result in the 2019 opener.
- In fact, UMHB has rarely finished non-conference matches with a draw. Just three of the Crusaders’ non-conference contests since 2018 have ended in a tie.
- Junior Sawyer Young was credited with the assist on Martinez’s goal. It marked Young’s ninth assist of his career but first in a season opener.
- Goalkeeper Ethan Hilliard, in his UMHB debut, tallied two saves in 90 minutes of action. It brought Hilliard’s collegiate saves total to 14, as he recorded 12 saves at UT-Dallas in 2022.
- Friday’s match saw seven players make their UMHB debuts; Hilliard, Martinez, Chase Duhon, Nathan Riess, Michael Myers, Peighton Raisey, and Rhett Rapuzzi.
- Of those seven, four were part of UMHB’s Starting Eleven, with Hilliard getting the start at goalkeeper, Riess and Duhon at defender, and Myers at forward.
UMHB concludes its road trip on Sunday at noon, facing Hendrix College. The Warriors will be playing on their home field, and come off a 8-4-4 season in 2022.