Losing is the hardest thing to do in sports. Anybody can walk away after a win, but it takes mental fortitude to stay composed and rebound from a loss, close or not.
The Prairie Fire men’s soccer team (3-8) experienced both this past weekend. A light rain sprinkled the field in last Saturday’s matchup between Knox and the Lake Forest Foresters (5-5-1). The Foresters jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Nelson Dorvlo scored in the 16th minute. The Knox players could not break the Lake Forest defense, only getting four shots off in the contest.
“I think we stayed stagnant too long, and when it came to game time we had a slow start,” said sophomore defender Jeremy Shaw.
The Foresters scored two more goals in the second half to increase their lead to 3-0. The match was full of hard challenges and the three yellow cards awarded to Lake Forest reflected that. The match looked to be a shut out, but senior forward Lawrence Povoas scored an unassisted goal to break the shut out. However, it was too little too late and the Prairie Fire fell 3-1.
“The game Saturday was tough. We played Chicago-style ball, physical and rough,” said Prairie Fire head coach Jeff Bernhardt. “They dictated the plays. They got a few calls in there and they got two goals and they got the win.”
The Prairie Fire might have been bullied to a loss, but the mentality for the next game was positive. The outcome was not.
Sunday’s game was a chance for redemption as Knox took on the Illinois College Blue Boys (2-7-1). At first the game seemed competitive, as IC and Knox both applied some early pressure. Something was wrong, however, the Prairie Fire players looked slower and not as together as the Blue Boys. Illinois College scored first, just eight minutes into the match. The shot was a blazer from outside the box, which surprised even the forward that scored, Tom Batsios. The Knox players seemed to be discouraged by the goal. The Blue Boys then scored again just two minutes later.
There is a saying in sports that when it rains, it pours. And that is what Illinois College did, pouring in five more goals to make the halftime score 7-0. From there, the game was pretty much over.
“We’ve got to come out full force and we didn’t. That’s why the scoreboard says what it does,” said Shaw after the game on Sunday.
Bernhardt could only watch silently as his team struggled to score. Both teams gave their bench players some minutes as the final bell ended. The final score ended up still 7-0. Bernhardt left immediately after talking to his players.
Tuesday, he was concise and to the point about how his players played.
“We showed no heart, no compassion, no mentality to play. The way we played Sunday, we couldn’t beat a junior high soccer team,” he said.
But the season has not ended, and the team has two more conference games this week in Wisconsin against St. Norbert and Lawrence University.
Looking toward the future, Shaw said, “We are going to Wisconsin looking to win both games. The games are going to be tough, but I know we will make it through.”