The Knox College men’s soccer team (winners of three of their last four games) came into last Thursday’s game against Illinois College looking to start the week in conference play. The weather had other plans, as rained postponed the game to a date still to be determined.
The rain-out left Saturday’s game at winless Cornell College as the only match of the weekend, but the team could only manage a 1-1 tie.
Though the tie gave the Prairie Fire a point in the standings, it still proved to be a frustrating result.
“If we’re going to be the kind of program we want to be, that’s a game we absolutely have to win,” junior Maxwell Gatyas said.
Knox gave up a goal to Cornell’s Alex Solano in the 29th minute, and it was not until the 65th minute before Knox would get the equalizer. Senior Donald Tchopya netted his 5th goal of the year to pull Knox even, but the Prairie Fire could not leap the final hurdle into the lead.
Despite outdoing Cornell by seven in shots and five in shots on goal, Knox allowed the game to linger through double overtime as neither team could find the back of the net.
“The game felt like a loss … we should have had that one,” freshman Charlie Harned said.
Even just a few years ago, a tie against any school would not have been met with such frustration and anguish; such are the perks of hiring a coach like Matt Edwards, a former coach at Amherst College, Springfield College and an academy coach at the Southampton Football Club in England.
“[Edwards] is extremely overqualified for the position … he keeps us in games we have no business being in,” Gatyas said.
Edwards has brought in a new coaching philosophy unlike anything Knox soccer has seen before, instituting a defensive, disciplined and structured style of play that has benefited Knox.
But Edwards’ pride and joy lays in his recruiting. Knox features new players from Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago and across the United States, creating one of the most diverse and talented teams in recent Knox memory.
It should be noted, though, that not all the credit can go to Edwards. New Assistant Coach Marcos Moreno ’12 has devoted himself wholly to the program, acting not only as a sharpened soccer mind, but also as an additional teammate, having just graduated from Knox in 2012.
It is not all about coaching; several players have stepped up and played big roles, while others have continued their already solid careers.
Tchopya’s five goals this season come as no surprise, as the forward out of San Francisco, Calif. notched four in each of the previous two seasons. Harned, on the other hand, who is leading the team with 10 goals, is just one example of a freshman class that have been “some of the biggest contributors on the field,” according to Gatyas.
In addtion to Harned, Knox has received goals from freshmen Nathaniel Logie, Abdusalam Oganla, Will McGowan, Hadee Ahmadi and Charles Edemba.
The Prairie Fire also continue to receive a stellar season from sophomore Jacob Polay. With two game winning goals already this year, Polay has shown he can come up in the clutch. But not all contributions have come from the offense.
One of the players that has gone for the most part unnoticed is freshman goaltender Sean McGovern, who according to Harned “makes no mistakes and does a whole lot of things that non-soccer fans wouldn’t notice.
“His footwork and positioning are always perfect, and he’s yet to make a mistake this year,” Harned said.
Knox would have to win out the rest of their games this year against some of the best teams in the MWC in order to claim the conference title. Both Harned and Gatyas believe the team is primed for one of the best runs in Knox sports history