For the first time this season, the Warhawk men’s soccer team finally gave up a goal on Wednesday against Loras College, the fourth-ranked team in NCAA Division III soccer.
The ’Hawks fell to Loras 1-0 in a tough early season road game on Wednesday, before rebounding with a 0-0 draw against North Park University on Sunday.
The two games brought the ’Hawks’ overall record to 3-1-1. The team has only given up one goal in the first five games of the season.
Coach Tony Guinn and senior goalie Matt Mikesell both said Loras and North Park were very strong teams. Guinn said Loras was an extremely well-coached and very talented team.
“I thought our team played very well,” he said, “but that team is very good. We got scored on right before half, and unfortunately were unable to get it back.”
Guinn said his team played a very good second half against Loras and that they missed a couple opportunities to draw the match. Although the ‘Hawks lost, Guinn and Mikesell both said they were encouraged by their team’s showing.
“We’ve done nothing at all to discourage me so far this year,” Guinn said. “My guys play as a team, they never stop trying, they understand defense and how important not giving up goals is. We’re very talented, too.”
Loras had nine shots on goal in the match, compared to four for the ‘Hawks.
“We all left with our heads up,” Mikesell said of the Loras game. “We felt we could compete with them on any day, and we’re proud of what we did.”
Mikesell continued his season of efficient play in goal against Loras, with eight saves. He performed even better against North Park, although he credited his defense for making him look good, calling goals against “a team stat.”
“The amount of shots the defenders have blocked for me exceed those actually saved,” Mikesell said. “It’s a huge help for me that they’ve been so strong in back.”
Guinn, however, was quick to credit his keeper, saying he played “magnificently” against North Park. Mikesell notched nine saves in the 110-minute draw.
Normally, a 0-0 draw would be seen as a defensive match, but against North Park the ‘Hawks actually had 19 shots, five more than their opponent.
“I’d say it was a good, solid game all-around,” Mikesell said. “There were chances, and it’s not like no one could get a shot off. Each team defended well, but the same game could be 3-3.”
The ‘Hawks had lost to North Park the last two seasons, so a draw is a step forward from last year, Mikesell said.
Guinn said he was very impressed by the technical soundness of North Park’s team. They had 17 players from Sweden on their roster, and he said Swedish players are known for their high soccer IQ.
“They were good defensively and very possession-oriented,” Guinn said. “They were the best technical team I’ve seen.”
At the end of the week, Mikesell was tied for first place in the nation in save percentage and goals against. The ‘Hawks were also tied for first in goals against and shutout percentage.
Next up for the ‘Hawks is a match at Augustana College on Wednesday. Guinn said the team’s goal in the upcoming games is to start creating and finishing more goal-scoring opportunites.
“Right now, teams probably look at us and notice how strong and tough to break down our defense is, but then they look at our results and think we can’t score,” he said. “Hopefully we can have guys step up and put the ball in the back of the net moving forward.”