St. Louis learns what it's like to be on losing side in soccer

Elliot Harris
Date Published: 
Miami News

The last time St. Louis University's soccer team had lost was in the National College Athletic Association tournament in 1968 to Maryland. So it was fitting — not necessarily pleasant for the Billikens but fitting — that St. Louis had its 44-game unbeaten streak and 25-game winning streak broken in the NCAA tournament.

"I felt then we had been beaten by the lesser team," said Billiken coach Harry Keough of the loss to Maryland. After last night's 3-2 loss to Howard University before 5,852 in the NCAA finals at the Orange Bowl Keough said, "You must give credit to the Howard team (15-0). I'd say this is the finest team we played this year."

A loss for the Billikens is about as unusual as their failure to win the NCAA championship. Of 13 titles St. Louis has eight.

"Nobody wins every game," he said. "We've been trying to hold back the tide. Maybe that's why it hurts. I feel if we played again, we'd beat 'em. But I guess you have to learn how the other half feels. I guess second in the country isn't bad."

Unless you are used to first.

"Actually I felt we put 'em back in the ball game," said Keough. "Even with a poor team, you can't do that. And Howard wasn't a poor team."

St. Louis (17-1) scored after 4:24 of the first quarter on Mike Seerey's rebound shot off a Howard defender. Alvin Henderson, who had two goals and an assist, tied the score after 7:13 when Billiken goalie Al Steck mishandled the ball, trapped it and Henderson kicked the ball in the goal. With 9:55 gone in the quarter Seerey assisted on Dennis Hadican's goal.

With 4:08 left in the half Henderson assisted as Mori Diane scored a rebounded penalty kick. Those two were the goals Keough had second thoughts about.

"The two first goals were errant plays by us. The third goal was a first-class goal in any league," he said.

The third goal came after 1:01 of the second half when Henderson, on an assist from Stan Smith, sailed a 25-yard shot past Steck from the left side of the field to the left side of the goal.

Henderson, a sophomore, is an All-American, as is teammate Keith Aqui who did not start the game because of injury, but entered with 6:12 left in the first quarter with Howard behind 2-1.

"Keith, when he came in, he inspired us," said Henderson. Aqui also is a sophomore. Howard did not start a senior. St. Louis had only one, Jim Draude.

"I think we'll probably be as good or better next year," said Henderson who liked playing on artificial turf although it did cause him some injuries.

"I like it," he said. "It's good for forward." Henderson is a forward. "You can get a shot off much quicker and it makes the passing game easier."

Henderson's father, Dr. Horace Henderson, journeyed from Trinidad to see his son play. Dr. Henderson is an international soccer referee. He has worked the Pan American Games.

"I didn't know he was here until halftime of the semifinals," said Alvin.

Since his father is an official, Alvin should be a clean player, right? "I hope so," said his father.

Even if he weren't, Dr. Henderson might not notice.

"I came to see my son play, not to referee," he said.

Alvin came to play also. Maybe next year St. Louis will fly him to Trinidad when the soccer tournament begins. It would make the Billikens' chances of regaining their lost title much better.