Ever since losing in heartbreaking fashion to their crosstown rival University of Dubuque Spartans, the Loras men’s soccer team has been unstoppable. They won seven consecutive matches to finish the regular season, outscoring their opponents 30-5 over this stretch. Six out of these seven victories came against Iowa Conference opponents, including the season finale against Luther College in the Rock Bowl.
With a win against the Norse, Loras would clinch their 11th Iowa Conference championship. This was no easy task, as Luther came in just behind the Duhawks in the standings. It was a scoreless affair for majority of the match, neither team able to find the back of the net.
Junior keeper Jacob Peterson came up with three saves to earn a clean sheet for the Duhawks. In the 81st minute, a breakthrough occurred off a Loras throw-in. Senior Eric Ziolkowski flicked the ball to the near post and found the foot of first-year Liam O’Connell to take the late lead.
With under 10 minutes left to play, the Duhawks focused on keeping their defense strong, but nearly saw their victory slip away. In the 87th minute, the Norse sent a shot on net, but Peterson leapt and knocked it over the crossbar, keeping the door closed. The clock struck zero and the Duhawks were officially champions of the Iowa Conference.
“Outworking the opponent is the key to our success, and we rely on every player. Everyone understands their role and is prepared to play when called upon,” said Ziolkowski.
On top of sole possession of the conference title, the Duhawks also clinched the top seed in the Iowa Conference tournament and a bye to the semifinal. Their quest for another tournament championship began Wednesday against the Simpson College Storm in the Rock Bowl. These two sides last met only 10 days ago in Indianola, with the Duhawks coming away with a 3-1 win. Loras was paced by goals from sophomores Ryan Ross and Ian Lenke and senior Kyler Olsen. If the Duhawks can get past the Storm, they could set up a possible rematch with the Dubuque Spartans with the title on the line on Saturday night in the Rock Bowl.
In last year’s conference championship game, Alex Bradley scored the lone goal for the Duhawks and led Loras over the Spartans, 1-0.
With such a legacy of winning, the team is under constant pressure from here on out but faith and perseverance are the key.
Winning is about believing in the system and buying in to the style that we play,” said senior Adam Roloff.
Given the 1-0 victory against Luther, Peterson and the defense played their role to more than satisfactory.
“I know I won’t do much in the games as far as actually touching the ball. However, I feel it is my job to give my defense confidence and keep a level head. I scream, and I yell, but it is all in order for them to know that I am behind them, I am ready, and I have their backs,” said junior keeper Jacob Peterson.
The team dynamic sets this Loras team apart; they all have the goal in mind. With a deep bench and a determined mind, the ‘hawks are flying places.
“We all came here because we wanted to continue and build off of the Loras legacy of success,” said sophomore Alex Hofstetter.