Buoyed by a boisterous and sizable crowd, the Prairie Fire men’s soccer team (1-14, 0-7) played spirited soccer and stymied the Illinois College offensive attack for the majority of Knox’s final home game.
Failing to convert one of myriad of scoring opportunities into a tally and allowing one ill-timed breakaway in an otherwise relentless and excellent defensive performance, Knox fell to the Blueboys (8-6-3, 3-4-1), 1-0, in a midweek Midwest Conference contest.
The frigid conditions evident during the game mirrored a ferocious Knox defensive attack that prevented the Blueboys’ offense from finding the back of the net during the contest’s first 45 minutes. Despite attaining a host of scoring opportunities, the Fire also failed to put a shot past Illinois College goalkeeper Trevor Donahue during the first half of play.
The scoring drought continued well into the second half of play, as Knox and Illinois College both failed to net goals upon 80 minutes of bruising play. During the 84th minute, the Fire defense faltered, as Illinois College freshman forward Evan Baker was given a breakaway to the goal.
Knox sophomore goaltender Franz Huebner got a piece of Baker’s shot and appeared to make an incredible save. But the shot’s momentum propelled the ball to the back of the net and provided the Blueboys with a lead they would not relinquish.
Battling during the final minutes after the Baker tally, the Prairie Fire fiercely attacked Donahue with a flurry of shots. A final barrage of shots upon Donahue catalyzed by Knox’s leading scorer — sophomore forward Maxwell Gatyas — and his last-minute corner kick came up short, despite the best efforts of senior defender Peter Michener and junior forward Donald Tchopya. In spite of the loss, the Fire performed laudably, giving their followers an effort worthy of kudos.
Gatyas labeled the team’s play against Illinois College as “one of the [team’s] best performances of the season,” saying the team was “unlucky to lose, but that [he was] really proud for the team.”
With respect to Saturday’s showdown against Lake Forest and the season finale at Grinnell, Gatyas feels that the Fire’s showing of strong play during the entirety of the game against the Blueboys “just shows us we can compete with everyone else in the conference.”
Rough Wisconsin Road Trip
During last weekend tour of Wisconsin, the Prairie Fire dropped conference contests to Lawrence University and Saint Norbert College.
During the contest against the Lawrence, sophomore forward Dillon Kostka netted his first tally of the 2011 campaign off a free kick by Gatyas.
“It was off of a set piece. We had a free kick about 25 yards out and I was just inside the box. I was standing on the far side to pick up anything that was going far post. The free kick was deflected out, I saw the ball and I shot it.
“It was my first conference goal and I could not have asked for a better one, a volley from just inside the 18 into the upper right side panel. I thought that goal might have been the boost that we needed to make something happen,” Kostka said.
But Kostka’s efforts were not enough, as the Fire fell to the Vikings, 4-1.
The next day Knox traveled to DePere, Wis. to take on the Green Knights of Saint Norbert. Though senior Marcos Moreno came through with a score on a corner kick from Gatyas in the 31st minute, Knox fell to the Green Knights 5-1. The win snapped a six-game losing streak for St. Norbert.
On Saturday, Kostka and his underclass peers will try to send Knox’s six seniors (defender Marcos Moreno, forward Luca Rajola-Pescarini, midfielder Jack Barthell, midfielder Sujeen Adhikari, defender David Aiken, and defender Peter Michener) off Jorge Pratts Field one last time as victors in a conference match against Lake Forest.
“The mindset going into the last two games of the year is just to give all that we have and leave nothing behind,” Kostka said. “We need to play a hard 90 minutes. It’s going to be really intense for our seniors, and the rest of the team needs to match that intensity so we can send them out on the right note.”