It was a well-fought game with a bittersweet ending.
Dozens of Knox students rooted for the home team Sunday in a 2-2 overtime draw against the Webster University Gorloks (3-2-1), capping off a strong week for the Prairie Fire men’s soccer team (2-5-1)
Heavy rain and early autumn temperatures made Jorge Prats Field especially muddy for Sunday’s nonconference match. Webster University, a member of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, entered the match having already defeated Knox’ conference foe Illinois College.
Freshman Maxwell Gatyas, a midfielder from Plymouth, Wis., ignited the game with an unassisted goal during the first half.
Webster University’s Clint Carter scored the tying goal with assistance from his teammate, Zach Papes. Carter then put Webster ahead with another goal, this time assisted by Kyle Leonard.
This game, as a result, seemed lost when the Prairie Fire had less than two minutes to play. Sophomore Donald Tchopya, however, showered the home crowd with hope by scoring the tying goal, completing a back-flip to complement his celebration.
“I didn’t want to kick directly, but when I saw the goalie, like, move to the right side, then I started kick to the left side ‘cause it was an opening,” Tchopya said, “And I kicked it to the left side, and it went in…. I’m proud of my goal.”
While Tchopya’s skills brought many back on their feet to anticipate the final outcome, both sides, in the end, failed to score in the two overtime periods, despite ample opportunity to claim the victory.
Although this match falls into neither the win nor loss column, new head coach Kevwe Akpore still believes his team can produce a winning season and hopefully make it to the conference playoffs, despite losing its first five contests.
“Yeah, we are walking on it [the playoffs] … So, yeah, we have plans but there is lot of work to be done,” Akpore said. “Going forward, it was quite an experience; an experience that I wanted them to have in terms of my original plan.”
The draw ended a triumphant week for the Prairie Fire, who defeated Lincoln Christian University 9-2 and MacMurray College 3-0. Against Lincoln Christian, both Tchopya and Gatyas tallied hat tricks. Leading 4-2 at the half, the Prairie Fire exploded for five goals in the second half.
Against MacMurray, Knox dominated defensively, limiting the opposition to just two shots on goal. Gatyas scored two goals to lead the Prairie Fire offensively.
Gatyas’ strong week shot him up the Midwest Conference leaderboard. Gatyas is now in first place in goals scored, and seventh in assists.
Having picked up two victories in the nonconference portion of their schedule, the team will look to carry this momentum over into Midwest Conference play.
The Prairie Fire will return home on October 2 at 1:30 p.m. against Lawrence University (5-2, 2-0) at Jorge Prats Field. On October 3, St. Norbert College (2-4, 0-0) will visit for a 1:00 p.m. contest.
On Wednesday night, the Prairie Fire fell 12-1 to the University of Dubuque. Freshman Avinab Rajbhandary notched the only score.