UPrep’s second chance at beating a rival


Photo: Max Rubenstein

Junior Landon Eintracht dribbles the ball, narrowly escaping his defender early in the second half.

The varsity boy soccer team had one more item on their wishlist during the second half of their season: to take down The Bush School. After coming second in the state to Bush during the 2022 season, they were ready to try again. 

“I think the boys and our coaching staff feel like they stole the first game from us,” Coach Nate Whitney said before the game. 

Even though the rivalry is the same in 2023, the team is very different for the Pumas after losing multiple seniors from last season. Senior Will Rothman believes that they have the potential to go far if they continue building their chemistry.

“This year, since everything is restarting, it was much slower and tougher trying to get to know everyone,” Rothman said. “But we are getting better with communication which is something we were struggling with for most of the early season.”

Going into the game on Fri. April 21, 2023, University Prep made a game plan to counteract the Blazers’ strong points. 

“Their weakness is they do not possess the ball much…which we look to do. If we can slow down the game and control the game with our passing, we should be successful,” Coach Whitney said.

“If you can survive our league and get into the postseason where we can face teams from other leagues, we will be ok, but, you’ve got to survive league play first.”

— Nate Whitney

That is exactly what UPrep did early on, possessing the ball early and often in the first half, along with lining up multiple shots on goal but coming up empty-handed each time. 

Junior Augie Goldberg had a smooth drive into Bush territory but another player kicked the ball away at the last second before he could get a quality shot. UPrep ended the first half without any true scares, but also did not have any goals of their own to brag about. 

UPrep rocketed out of halftime, as senior Quin Drabek quickly created a drive before crossing the ball over the goal to sophomore Gavin Davis, who got a good shot off, but one that unfortunately sailed over the posts. 

However, within the next minute, the Pumas finally broke the stalemate. Junior Nalin Taggart got into Bush territory and softly kicked the ball toward the goalie, who fumbled it and could only watch as the ball trickled into the goal behind him.

Once UPrep scored that goal to go up 1-0, Bush kicked it up a notch themselves. On an ensuing possession, Bush took a strong drive into UPrep territory and then had three players storm Puma goalie Nick Cox-Hultquist, who fell over and got the call from the refs in his favor. 

The teams were trading blows, driving down, and then kicking it away from one another. 

UPrep remained in the lead 1-0 for about 10 minutes until Bush had a breakaway down the left sideline, where their striker crossed the ball to a wide-open Blazer, who was streaking down the middle and able to hit an easy wide-open goal. That seemed to be a spark for the Blazers as moments later, Bush found themselves up 2-1 following a sliding shot that found the back of the net. 

With time running out and UPrep looking at losing both games against Bush, someone had to make a play. The Pumas got a possession down near the Bush goal, which led to a good shot off on goal. The Blazer goalie heroically blocked the ball, which deflected to Goldberg, who booted the ball into the back of the net.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie, which the Pumas were certainly alright with. Freshman Max Cook walked away from the game thinking that the team should have played better.

“I’m a little bit disappointed with a tie because we have done well against difficult teams previously, but I am glad we were able to score a goal to tie it up in the end,” Cook said. 

Although playing in such a competitive league has its advantages and disadvantages, Head Coach Nate Whitney and the rest of the players are optimistic about the rest of the season.

“Our league is one of the best in the state year after year and has a tendency to beat up teams,” Whitney said. “If you can survive our league and get into the postseason where we can face teams from other leagues, we will be ok, but, you’ve got to survive league play first.”