Promising start for UVI soccer


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University of Virgin Islands soccer coach Yohannes Worede wasn't thrilled. At the same time, he wasn't disappointed with his team's performance.

Mohammed Yusuf and Suresh Suknan scored first-half goals for the Buccaneers, but UVI could only hold on for a 2-2 tie against Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico in the program's debut Saturday at Paul E. Joseph Stadium on St. Croix.

The school's soccer program, launched in March, is a member of the Liga Atl├ętica Interuniversitaria, which also includes 14 college soccer teams from Puerto Rico.

"I think we played very well for our first appearance as a team, but we gave this game away," said Worede, whose team opened a 2-0 halftime lead and outshot Polytechnic by a 22-6 margin. "It was a good start for us. Our mission is to win, and if not, we're not going to lose."

An own goal and a late penalty kick doomed the Bucs in the second half.

Yusuf scored in the 22nd minute for UVI when he blasted a shot from 30 yards out and caught the Polytechnic goalkeeper by surprise. The goal curled into the corner of the net and gave UVI some early momentum.

The Bucs struck again eight minutes later when Suknan scored after a flurry of shots in front of Polytechnic's net.

"We were rolling, but we also had a key player go down," Worede said.

Midfielder Michael Nissman, a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior men's team, injured his hamstring with about five minutes left in the first half. Up until that moment, Worede said the team captain was helping UVI dominate possession in the midfield.

"Michael is one of our senior players, so his injury is a big blow," said Worede, who had only 14 active players Saturday. "We had to look to our bench, and we ran into a little trouble."

During a Polytechnic throw-in later in the second half, defender Caleb Tavernier attempted a clear but mishandled it and the ball got past UVI goalkeeper Troy Misseau for an own goal.

Polytechnic tallied the equalizer with seven minutes left. A UVI substitute entered the match late and accidentally handled the ball inside the Bucs' penalty area, resulting in a penalty kick.

"It was a big gaffe, and it came late in the game, so it hurt," Worede said. "At the time, we were just trying to hold on for the win, but these things happen, especially when you have a new team."

Worede said the squad that suited up Saturday was made up of seven St. Thomas players and seven St. Croix players. The St. Thomas players made the trip to St. Croix on Friday night for a walk-through and team dinner.

"We really started to gel in a very short amount of time," Worede said. "Since we got this first match under our belt, I'm hoping some other interested players will come out and help us build this program."

Denny Smith, who plays goalkeeper for an adult men's league team on St. Thomas, started at sweeper for UVI and was the squad's top defensive back, while Misseau finished with two saves.

The Bucs compete in the San Juan Division of the LAI and is the only school in the league that does not offer athletic scholarships. Their next match will be Saturday against UPR-Carolina at Don Bosco Stadium in Puerto Rico.

"For our first game, the guys really did a great job," said Worede, who has also coached the Country Day School varsity soccer team to three straight IAA St. Croix titles. "The fitness level wasn't where I want it to be, but we have time to work on that. Overall, I was satisfied, and I know the guys are looking forward to the next match."

Buccaneers 2, Polytechnic 2

Polytechnic (0-0-1) 0 2 - 2

UVI (0-0-1) 2 0 - 2

- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 774-8772 ext. 352 or email agray@dailynews.vi.

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