In the midst of a roster full of young talent, the men’s soccer team has relied heavily on a few key upperclassmen to lead the way.
Junior keeper Matthew Overacker (Mount Crawford, Va./Turner Ashby) has been one of those leaders for the Royals this year, stabilizing the defensive effort from his position in front of the net.
Matthew took home the Royals Athlete of the Week award after stellar performances in a 2-1 loss to nationally-ranked Lynchburg College and a scoreless tie at Hampden-Sydney.
Matthew notched a season-high 11 saves to hold EMU in the game against the powerhouse Hornets. Keyed by that impressive defensive play the Royals took Lynchburg to overtime before taking the loss.
In the next game, Matthew helped shut out the Tigers of Hampden-Sydney, but ultimately had to settle for a tie when the EMU offense could not string anything together on a rain-soaked day. Matthew had three saves in the wet conditions.
“The game against Lynchburg was one of our greatest games that we have played as a team,” Matthew explained. “We played our hearts out. We fought hard, but our team is young and is not used to ODAC play yet.”
Injuries have taken their toll on Matthew’s career, with both his freshman and sophomore campaigns being cut short. Outside of missing one game in the second week, the junior has remained healthy this season and it has shown on the pitch. He has an ODAC-leading 73 saves and five shutouts on top of a respectable .777 save percentage.
“Matthew has had a solid season and it has been good to see him stay healthy,” Coach Roger Mast stated on his keeper. “Matthew displays confidence in his abilities and was very solid in the past two matches with Lynchburg College and Hampden-Sydney.”
With an abundance of injury and illness among his teammates, Matthew has seen struggles with consistency on the pitch from the team as a whole.
“It is tough to deal with injuries, but we just play the next guy and expect them to fill in cleanly,” Matthew said. “This changes the dynamic of the team with a consistent goalkeeper but we have been battling injuries in the back so it's not as smooth as is it should have been.”
Matthew has started all but one game for the Royals this year, which he describes as a new experience after missing 20 of EMU’s 40 games over the previous two years. With the large amount of playing time, Matthew has already surpassed his previous high for saves in season.
“The number of saves means nothing at all because I have played one year of soccer in two years,” Matthew said of missing fully half of the Royals’ games in 2014 and 2015. “So it's new to me to be this deep in the season on the stat board.”
Matthew looks to continue his quality year as the men’s soccer team attempts to make the ODAC Tournament and compete for a title.
--- by Jake Brown, Sports Information Intern