The Duhawks (6-4, 2-1 in IIAC) traveled up the street last Wednesday to take on their crosstown rivals, the University of Dubuque Spartans. In the all-time series between the two sides, Loras absolutely dominated with a 20-0-0 record against the Spartans. This year’s matchup would be different, as UD came in leading the conference with a 10-1 record.
The stage was set and the stands were rocking as the two sides met in a big-time Iowa Conference clash. Loras came out early and put pressure on the Spartans, but could not convert their chances. In the 27th minute, senior Alex Bradley sent a ball to the box and found sophomore Ryan Ross’ head. However, his attempt sailed over the crossbar to keep it scoreless. As the first half wound down, junior Ike Bruns had a chance off a bouncing ball, but it was turned away and the match went into half with no score.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Loras continued to have scoring opportunities, but just could not cash in. Bruns again sent a shot on net, this time hitting the far post and preventing the Duhawks from jumping out in front. Despite 19 shots in the game, the Duhawks were unable to find the back of the net. The Spartans finally cashed in when leading scorer Gonzalo Hernandez-Ciscante beat senior Jacob Peterson on a one-on-one in the 88th minute. The Spartans escaped with the 1-0 victory and their first-ever win against Loras in men’s soccer.
After losing a heartbreaker like that, especially against a heated rival, it would have been easy for the Duhawks to have a bit of a hangover going into their next match. Luckily, Bradley and the rest of the team knew they needed to use this loss as a learning experience.
“That was a tough loss and it would have been easy to dwell on it. However, we addressed the fact that we had to turn the page immediately and look forward to the next game against Central,” Bradley said.
The Duhawks would have two days to prepare for an improved Central squad, who came into the Rock Bowl with an 8-3 record, 2-0 in the Iowa Conference. Loras knew they needed to come out strong to bounce back against the Dutch.
That is exactly what they did as the Duhawks struck quickly on Saturday. In the 5th minute, senior Austin Jacobi got the offense going as he found Bradley streaking down the field, who outran the Dutch defense, and used a bending shot to score the opening tally. The Duhawks added another in the 35th minute off a corner kick, which pinballed in the box and ended up being tapped in by senior Chris Paulino for his first goal of the season. Loras maintained their 2-0 advantage into the half.
Even with a lead, the Duhawks knew this wasn’t the time to sit back.
“Although we were up 2-0 at half, Coach Rothert made it clear we still were not playing with enough intensity and demanded more from us,” said Bradley.
The intensity was definitely turned up as the Duhawks struck for three more goals in the second half. Senior Jonah Jacke blasted a shot from 30 yards out to make it 3-0, and fellow senior Nick Nemmers added two goals late to give the Purple & Gold a 5-0 triumph.
Off the strength of their most recent victory, the Duhawks have moved into a three-way tie for second place in the Iowa Conference with Wartburg and Simpson. Loras had an opportunity to move into sole possession as they traveled to Waverly on Tuesday to take on the Knights.
Loras will look to keep up the offensive firepower they showed off against the Central Dutch, as well as their strong defense.
“Our energy up top and off the bench gave Central no time to really create anything, and we will be looking to really up the intensity of the ‘swarm’ for the remaining games in the season,” said Bradley.
The Duhawks have six games remaining in the regular season, including five conference matchups. If they want to be included in postseason play, Loras will have to continue this strong showing.