There is something sacrosanct about home fields in college sports. Allen Fieldhouse, The Big House, Neyland, and The Pit all have a single name familiarity that on its own indicates what they bring to the athletes that call there home. Xavier’s own Cintas Center, if not bestowed with a great name, brings a fearsome home court advantage to the Musketeers. I mention all of this because, for the last three weeks, Xavier soccer has had no home and recently that meant travelling to Kentucky for a “home” Crosstown Derby against UC.
The game started much how you’d expect one of the preeminent rivalries in college sports to start if one team was suddenly uprooted and forced to play their home games across a river from their home state. In other words, the Musketeers stumbled out of the gate. Miscommunication from the central defenders in the 19th minute left Jack Clark dancing through the middle for a one on one with the keeper that he duly dispatched. UC’s second goal didn’t come until the second half, but a looping header from a Xavier defender found keeper Jake Ciricillo out to sea and Elliot Williams gave the Bearcats a 2-0 57th minute lead.
On the road but supposedly at home and down two goals to their crosstown rival, the Musketeers could have been forgiven for packing it in and resignedly trudging back to their flooded field. 2-0 in soccer is a large gap to make up in just 33 minutes. Xavier looked dead and buried. Instead, the fightback was on. In that same 57th minute Matt Nance slammed in a header to bring the Musketeers back within one. The reaction to the goal was that of a team determined to get back into the game.
Eight minutes later it was Jalen Brown finishing off a slack move that featured four one touch passes with a hammer from the right side of the box. As the Bearcats faltered, Xavier stormed back in just 12 minutes. Even salvaging a point from down two would have been impressive, but the Musketeers were rolling now. A short corner to Derrick Otim in the 83rd saw the Nottingham product put the ball on frame. In the ensuing goal mouth scramble Todd Pratzner powered in the winner and sprinted toward the corner and the host of Xavier fans that had made the trip. Otim received his reward for his efforts just four minutes later when he scored from a sharp angle to put the game beyond all reach.
Xavier’s homeless band is now 2-2-2 on the season and has beaten UC the last five times they’ve met. A loss on Tuesday in a true road game to Louisville meant the Musketeers are yet to win on the road. Big East play begins Saturday when DePaul arrives to play at, yes, UC’s Gettler Stadium. For now, at least, the Musketeers remain a team without a home.