The men’s soccer team’s consecutive win streak grew to 11 this weekend. The Prairie Fire defeated two very different opponents to remain undefeated in conference play with six wins to start the season.
Knox beat Midwest Conference preseason favorites Carroll University, currently ranked third in the conference, and Beloit College, currently ranked eighth in the conference.
The two games could not have been more different.
Looking at shot differential, Knox put 15 shots on goal to Beloit’s four on Sunday. Against Carroll the differential was negative: Knox took seven while Carroll took eight.
“I think we responded positively. Emotionally it was so difficult yesterday [against Carroll] and we were the underdog, pulled it out with a lot of effort. And then today we just grinded and grinded against a very resilient Beloit team. We just kept believing in what we do and that was very important for us,” head men’s soccer coach Matt Edwards said.
Junior Nathaniel Logie also noted the difference in Knox’s back-to-back games.
“Against Carroll we were considered the underdogs because they were picked to finish first, so we just had to keep competing and try and stick to our game plan and get a goal in the counterattack, which we did,” Logie said. “Today, [against Beloit] it was different because we are at the top of the table and they are at the bottom, so we had more of the ball today. We stuck to what we do: hard pressure, fast counter attack and in the end we got the goal.”
Both of the game-winning goals came late for the Prairie Fire. Logie downed Carroll in minute 65 and tapped in the game winner against Beloit almost eight minutes into extra time. The fact that there were no goals scored against the Prairie Fire this weekend enabled them to clinch both games.
“We’ve always founded all our play on good team defence. We shut out yesterday, shut out today, and you shut teams out you’ll win games. And we always believe we’ll find a way to score a goal. We’d like to do it a little earlier than we did today though,” Edwards said.
Edwards was confident that his team would pull through Sunday despite needing extra time to seal the victory. He said that the team will work more on finishing after the Beloit game, in which Knox took a total of 44 shots.
“Well we talk about being ruthless in front of goal, and today we just couldn’t connect that final pass or get that final quality shot, so we’ll continue to work on that. But we always believe that we can score goals, so we can take that away from the game as well as continuing to play good team defence and doing all the right things,” Edwards said.
Offensively, Edwards makes use of his roster’s depth.
“Our style of play is evolving as we get better players, we can utilize more people and there’s always going to be a lot of attention on Nathaniel [Logie] because he’s scored so many goals. But we think we have a lot of weapons that can get things done. So we’re excited about our offense,” Edwards said.
This weekend Knox played the first two matchups of a four-game home stand. Historically the team has struggled in away games, but this year the team has not had such problems.
“Winning away from home was one of our goals this year, and obviously we won four in a row this year, so that’s good for us. We were just excited to get back on Prat field and to try to close this out a little bit. We’re really excited for next weekend for St. Norbert’s and they are very, very, very good. And it’s going to be International Soccer Day, so hopefully we have a huge fan base. But winning that game and beating IC, we might host the tournament, so that’s really huge,” Edwards said.
Logie prefers playing at home. Every year the team tries to live up to the expectations of its fans.
“In away games we try to get ourselves fit to the conditions, but when we play at home its a different atmosphere. We have some of the best fans in the [conference] so we just need to defend our pitch and try not to lose at home and disappoint the fans,” Logie said.
Logie has had a season to remember: he currently leads the MWC in five statistical categories. He has been recognized as MWC offensive player of the week twice this season.
With that said, he is not focused on individual accomplishments.
“It’s just extra to me. The goal is to be in the tournament and hopefully win a championship, so I don’t really pay attention to any individual goals,” Logie said.
The team’s focus right now is on their game Saturday against St. Norbert College at home on International Soccer Day.
“We’re just going to focus on one game at a time, so we’re going to worry about St. Norbert this week and make sure that the guys that played a lot of minutes this week get healthy, and we’ll make sure we’re ready for St. Norbert and take it one game at a time,” Edwards said.
The influence of international students on the soccer team cannot be overlooked. Edwards says that the team has learned a lot from the blend of perspectives.
“It adds so much flavor to our team. It’s a big part of what Knox is, and we feel like a good representation of that in general. With (almost) 50 percent of the team being internationals, we just embrace each other’s understanding of the game and beliefs in the game, and it’s just so much fun to be around this group of guys right now,” Edwards said.