The Loras men’s soccer team began their conference title defense as they traveled to Lincoln, NE, to take on the Nebraska Wesleyan Prairie Wolves.
The Duhawks were looking to get back on track after suffering consecutive losses against St. Norbert and Carthage, pushing their overall record to 3-2-0. This would be the first time the Duhawks would face Nebraska Wesleyan since 2011, when Loras came out with a 6-0 victory.
The home side came out aggressively, putting pressure on senior goalkeeper Jacob Peterson from the start. In the 16th minute, the Prairie Wolves struck as Tanner Wood sent a ball into the box and Drew Miller flicked his shot off the crossbar and into the back of the net to take the 1-0 lead. Loras evened the score when Wesleyan was whistled for a foul in the box and senior captain Calvin Miller stepped up and buried the penalty kick.
Miller has been the PK specialist this season, stepping up whenever necessary for his team.
“I have been working hard on being able to go either way efficiently so goalies cannot get a good read on which way I’m shooting,” said Miller. “There is some pressure associated with taking penalties, but with being a competitor you welcome that pressure and look forward to those moments. I just want to do whatever is necessary to help my team win.”
The Duhawks used their momentum from the first goal and struck again, only 13 seconds later. Miller threw the ball in from the near sideline and a lucky bounce brought the ball over the Prairie Wolves defense and found the head of freshman Liam O’Connell to give Loras the lead, 2-1.
In the second half, the Prairie Wolves tied it back up as Will Weber nailed a penalty kick past Peterson in the 60th minute, tying the match at 2-2. The Duhawks increased their offensive pressure, delivering a number of shots on goal, only to be stopped by keeper Jack Nespor. In the 79th minute, another foul in the box by the Prairie Wolves gave Loras a penalty kick opportunity. Senior Kyler Olsen beat Nespor this time and put Loras back in front, 3-2. The Duhawks sealed their victory as they added an insurance goal in the 87th minute, as senior Alex Bradley crossed a ball to the far post and found junior Ike Bruns, who volleyed it into the inside post to make it a 4-2 advantage. This win moves Loras to 4-2-0 and 1-0 in the Iowa Conference.
A victory in the conference opener is always important, especially when it comes off back-to-back tough losses.
“As a team we view every conference game as the most important game of the year to put us in a position where we can host the conference tournament,” said Miller. “We definitely could have played better today, although getting the win on the road is the most important part and in the end we are happy with the result.”
Miller has stepped up in a number of ways this season, including his leadership and offensive prowess. After scoring no goals in 2015, Miller has already been responsible for three goals through the first six games.
“Last year we had a lot of really tall and athletic guys that could win headers and create offense on set pieces,” Miller said. “Since their graduation, I took that role upon myself and have worked hard to win headers and create offense when needed.”
The young Duhawks will continue to look to Miller as a source of offense this season.
On Wednesday Loras traveled to UW-Whitewater as part of the “Hawk Cup.” Last season, the Warhawks defeated Loras at the Rock Bowl, 2-1. The Duhawks will be looking to exact some revenge this time. After that, the team will return home to face Saint John’s on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.