The men’s soccer team has definitely been shooting — they just have not been scoring.

In their first four games this season, the Elis (0-4-0) have outshot their opponents by an almost two to one margin (55-31). But despite this impressive stat, the Bulldogs have only three goals to show for it.

In their last game against Hartwick, the Bulldogs outshot the Hawks 19 to 4, only to see themselves on the losing end of a 2-0 decision.

This being said, the Bulldogs are optimistic about the young season. After all, the Elis were 1-3-0 at this same time last year before going 9-3-1 the rest of the way.

Defender Jon Skalecki ’06 said it has been a few defensive breakdowns, not the skill level of the opponents, that has defined the Bulldog’s start so far.

“I think our start has nothing to do with our opponents,” Skalecki said. “In my opinion, our talent far surpassed that of the teams we played. In general, in every game we had a few defensive lapses that cost us and we just couldn’t score.”

The Bulldogs hope to reverse that trend this weekend. The Elis head to the University of Tulsa this weekend to take part in the Golden Hurricane Classic.

Tonight, the Elis will face No. 15 Southern Methodist University (SMU) and will play the host No. 25 Tulsa on Sunday afternoon.

Both teams are members of the powerful Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and currently ranked in the top 25 nationally. However, midfielder Alex Munns ’07 said he knows that the Bulldogs have the talent to play with anyone.

“We aren’t concerned about our skill — we never are,” Munns said. “We’ve the skill to compete and beat anyone. It’s how hard we work and how smart we work. If that comes together, I’d hate to be any other team in the Ivies, much less SMU or Tulsa.”

While Munns’ bravado is a sign of the Bulldogs’ optimism, they will still have their hands full this weekend.

Tulsa currently stands at 3-1-1 on the season and is coming off a 3-0 shutout of Oral Roberts. The Golden Hurricanes have scored 11 goals in its first five games.

Tulsa had its best season in school history in 2003. The Golden Hurricanes broke the top 10 nationally for the first time in school history, finishing with a 13-6-2 overall record.

After qualifying for the NCAA tournament, Tulsa won its first-ever tournament game, defeating Oakland in the first round. In the second round, the Golden Hurricanes lost a close, 3-2 match to top-ranked UCLA.

Striker Ryan Pore, an All-American last year, leads the Golden Hurricane. His 49 points last year tied the Tulsa record while his scoring average (2.3 points per game) was second in the nation. He was also named the Most Valuable Player of the MVC.

This season, Pore has picked up exactly where he left off, already netting a pair of two-goal outings in five games.

As for SMU, the Mustangs broke the top five nationally this year after their 3-1-0 start and is currently 4-2-0.

Midfielder Alex Smith, the 2003 MVC Newcomer and Offensive Player of the year, is the key player on the Mustangs. He is second on the team with three points this year.

Regardless of the competition, the Bulldogs know that notching their first win — or even a tie — this weekend would prove invaluable leading up to their first Ivy league game Oct. 2 against Harvard.

“[The first win] is pretty crucial, obviously,” captain Ryan Raybould ’05 said. “Hopefully we can do that this weekend. We definitely want to have a couple of wins under our belts before we play teams like Harvard.”

Munns said he also sees the first win as an important step in the season, but took a broader view of the situation.

“Our overall play is more important to us than numbers right now,” Munns said. “Don’t get me wrong, all our energy and efforts are concentrated on the task at hand this weekend in Tulsa. When we start putting together 90 minutes consistently, then the wins will take care of themselves.”

Raybould attributed some of the team’s struggles to its tough schedule, but ultimately, he knows that the season will come down to the 11 Bulldogs on the field.

“This is the hardest schedule we played since I’ve been here,” Raybould said. “But it’s also on ourselves because we haven’t taken into consideration the details [of our game]. I think they’ve been tough opponents, but I think the ball is still in our court because we control our own destiny.”

What the Bulldogs will do with the ball this weekend remains to be seen.

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