Prior to the beginning of the 2016 season, the Loras men’s soccer team earned a number of accolades. They were chosen as the favorites to win the Iowa Conference championship after winning four straight titles and were ranked No. 1 in the IIAC Coaches Preseason Poll with six first place votes from opposing conference coaches.
With all of the hype surrounding the team, it would have been easy to let it get the best of them as they began the season. This has not been the case as the Duhawks have opened the season strong and look ready to contend. They have won three out of their first four matches, including a 4-0 thrashing of the St. Scholastica Saints on Saturday, Sept. 10, in Duluth, MN.
The Duhawks opened the scoring when senior captain Calvin Miller buried a penalty kick in the 18th minute after a St. Scholastica handball in the box. Loras struck twice more in the first half, as sophomore Ryan Ross sent home a rebound in the 24th minute and senior Jonah Jacke scored off a pretty assist by junior Marcus Singleton in the 32nd minute. The Duhawks took a comfortable three-goal lead into the break and came back out for the second half trying to maintain their advantage. In the second half, it was all about the Duhawk defense as they kept the Saints off the board with swarming pressure and great goalkeeping by junior Jacob Peterson. The keeper finished with four saves, including a sliding effort to prevent a Saints’ goal in the 44th minute. First-year Liam O’Connell put the cherry on top for the Duhawks as he took a ball from fellow first-year Alex Herrera in 72nd minute and headed it into the back of the net. The victory was the second shutout in the first three games for the purple and gold.
The weekend came to a close on Sunday as the Duhawks took on the St. Norbert Green Knights. The match remained scoreless until the second half, when a familiar face put the Green Knights ahead. Former Duhawk Tyler Kassube, who transferred during his first year, scored on a free kick from nearly 50 yards away in the 55th minute. They added a second goal in the 75th minute to take a two goal advantage, the first time this season that the Duhawks would have to play from behind. Loras cut the lead in half in the 79th minute when Jonah Jacke scored for the second time in as many games, but that would prove to be the only tally for the Duhawks. St. Norbert’s keeper Josh Koleske came in huge late in the game to preserve the 2-1 victory for the Green Knights.
Despite the loss to end the weekend, the Duhawks have been showing no signs of slowing down after last season. Even after losing key contributors like Johnny Rummelhart and Sam Koenig to graduation, they have been able to have new leaders step into place and play the role this season.
Senior Jonah Jacke sees this as a great opportunity to teach the younger guys what it means to be a part of this program.
“It feels great to be looked up to by these underclassmen, especially since we have such a young team this season,” Jacke said. “Our junior and senior classes have done an amazing job in getting them up to speed and ready to compete every game.”
Several first-years already have been making key contributions, including Liam O’Connell, who had a goal and an assist through the first four matches. It will be interesting to see how Coach Dan Rothert continues to use these underclassmen as the year rolls along and the Duhawks enter into conference play.
The Duhawks will have a five-day break before heading to Kenosha, WI, on Friday to take on Carthage College. After starting the season 3-0-0, the Red Men have dropped two straight and will face a tough test against the Duhawks.