After a bye in the Iowa Conference Tournament, the Duhawks looked to capture their fifth consecutive tournament championship. Their quest began with a match-up against the University of Dubuque Spartans.
The Duhawks struck first in the 68th minute, when junior Tyler Kruikshank sent a ball into the box. The shot caromed off a defender, right to the feet of sophomore Kyler Olsen. Moving to his right, Olsen beat three Spartan defenders and sent his shot into the upper 90 to give the Duhawks a 1-0 advantage.
The Spartans did not waste time equalizing the score. In the 77th minute, Brandon Wiley fired a left-footed shot past sophomore goalie Adam Roloff to even the game at 1-1. With the score now tied, it would be a dogfight until the horn sounded.
With no goals from either side, the game moved into overtime. In the 98th minute, first-year Spencer Moore sent a long ball over the Spartan defense that found the feet of Tyler Kruikshank. He sent a one-touch pass to junior Bryan Irwin who blasted the winner top shelf to send the Duhawks to the conference championship game.
The stage was set for the Iowa Conference Championship Game between the Duhawks and the Wartburg Knights. These rivals were facing off for the second time in the last four games, with the Duhawks taking the first match-up 3-1. Much like that first game, Wartburg was able to take the early advantage. Tyler Salzwedel corralled the ball in the penalty area and beat Adam Roloff to take the 1-0 lead.
The Duhawks finally got their equalizer when Tom Fluegel laid the ball off to Pizzello, who beat two defenders and sent the shot home to tie it at one. This lead wouldn’t last for long, however, as Wartburg received a free kick after a yellow card on Calvin Miller. Kevin Krueger’s free kick found Jay Tegge who set up Zubeen Azari for the goal.
Azari nearly added a second goal when he took a chance in the 81st minute, but Adam Roloff was able to stretch out and make the save. Building off that defensive effort, Calvin Miller was able to equal the score with a header.
With the scored tied at two at the end of regulation, the Duhawks were heading into overtime for the second straight game.
Both teams had chances in the two overtime periods, but were unable to cash in for a goal. The game now headed to penalty kicks to decide an Iowa Conference Champion. The Duhawks converted on their first three PK’s by Simon, Fluegel, and Olson and the Knights answered with three successful PK’s of their own. Tied at 3, sophomore Jonah Jacke stepped up for the Duhawks. His shot was turned aside by Austin Boyke and gave the Knights the momentum, leading to the game-winning goal by Brady Anderson and a conference championship for the Wartburg Knights.
Coach Dan Rothert did not seem to be too worried after the loss.
“It was tough to end the conference tournament like that, would’ve liked to see a victory, but mental errors held us back,” he said “We know there are little things to fix, and we will improve before the NCAA tournament.”
Even with a loss to Wartburg, the Duhawks were given an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. As the top seed in the North Region, Loras will also host the regional round, which takes place Nov. 15-16.
Loras will begin tournament play Saturday against Westminster College (MO) in the Rock Bowl.