Last Wednesday, the Prairie Fire men’s soccer team — currently 3-6 overall — traveled to Lincoln Christian College. The game was a high-scoring affair in which both teams poured in goals.
Knox struck first with two goals from seniors Jared Jaggers and Lawrence Povoas. Lincoln Christian came back with two goals of there own, tying the score at 2-2. The Prairie Fire were unfazed and freshman Donald Tchoypa scored right before halftime.
Knox came out of halftime ready to go. Sophomore Jeremy Shaw scored Knox’s fourth goal to make the score 4-2. Lincoln Christian responded with two more goals to tie the score late in the game. In the 88th minute, Jaggers was able to get free and score the go-ahead goal with only two minutes remaining.
The Prairie Fire did not get much time off following the victory.
Their first Midwest Conference game was last Saturday versus rival Monmouth College (2-5). The Monmouth rivalry dates back to 1888 when Knox College played the Fighting Scots. It has been 121 years since the first match, but players still get psyched up and students bring their signs to cheer for their team.
Both teams came out strong as Knox and Monmouth tried to apply pressure to the other. The Prairie Fire, though, was unable to link up their passes or establish a tempo in the game.
“The first 15 minutes, Monmouth took it to us. They were a little more physical and a little more used to it. And we shriveled up,” said first-year Prairie Fire men’s soccer coach Jeff Bernhardt.
As a result, Knox could only get two shots on goal to the Fighting Scots 11 shots by halftime. But because Prairie Fire goalkeeper Max Miller prevented any shots from hitting the back of the net, the score was even at 0-0 going into the half.
In the second half, Monmouth was outworking and outhustling the Prairie Fire. The Fighting Scots were able to score the first goal of the match, making the score 1-0. Knox was able to keep the game close thanks to the prowess of Miller.
About 25 minutes into the half, Monmouth crossed the ball into the box and the header was saved by Miller. But the ball was still loose in front of the goal. Monmouth was there first and took the shot. While on his back, Miller reached up and deflected the shot away. He had a total of 14 saves. In the end, Knox could not crack the Monmouth defense and lost 1-0.
After asking what the team mentality was, Bernhardt said, “I think we will be fine. Mentally, they need a rebound. It depends on if we dictate play, if we can move the ball from side to side, and put pressure on their defense.”
However, senior Jules Traschel and sophomore Peter Michener were injured and were unable to play in Sunday’s game versus Cornell College (3-7).
The third and final game for the men’s soccer team was against the Cornell College Rams on Sunday. After a disappointing game against Monmouth, would the Prairie Fire have the focus and intensity to win this game?
Knox had several chances to put in the first goal of the game but several near misses hurt the Fire. The defense was able to prevent the Rams from getting too many shots on goal. With 18 minutes left in the half, Tchoypa fed a streaking Michael Gasparro, a freshman, in open space. Gasparro then blew the ball by the keeper to score Knox’s first goal. This was the only goal in the first half and for most of the second half. Both teams had several chances to score but were thwarted by the keepers.
With a little over 20 minutes left, Tchoypa fed Povoas who knocked it home to make the score 2-0. Only three minutes later, Povoas received the ball with several defenders on him. Instead of waiting for his teammates to catch up, Povoas outmaneuvered two defenders and scored his fifth goal of the season to make the score 3-0.
“We outhustled them today. I think that they were a little overconfident coming into the game and we jumped on them,” Bernhardt said.
The game looked to be a shutout, but Cornell College scored two late goals to give everyone a scare. The clock ran out before the Rams could pull off any potential comeback.
“I think that we played great for 60 minutes, but towards the end, there was a let down and that’s why the score was closer than it should have been,” Miller said after the game.
Knox returns to action this Saturday at Lake Forest before returning home for a 3:30 p.m. Sunday match against Illinois College.