The Knox College Men’s Soccer team remains undefeated in games against conference opponents, with four wins and a tie.
After its win against Illinois Wesleyan University, the team went on a seven game winning streak, and tied with Grinnell College this past Saturday.
Center-Midfielder sophomore Rocky Plaza said their success this season can be attributed to the closeness of the team.
“We’re like brothers,” Plaza said. “Like a family.”
Junior Jonny Banham agrees the team is very close.
“We win as a unit. So, therefore we live as a unit, we train as a unit and we are as one. There’s no superstars on our team so everyone respects each other equally and we all lift each other up.”
Banham also said that their success is due to the intense level at which they train. “It’s dependent on us and how we focus as a team during the training drills. That will decide our season,” Banham said.
Sophomore Goalkeeper Justin Dunn said the team chemistry is imperative to being successful the rest of the season.
“Without that chemistry, we’d be nothing,” Dunn commented.
Dunn has been doing very well this season, with six shutouts, and 43 saves in the goal.
The team has three freshmen who play key roles in their rotation: Jun Min, Nick Janulis and Charlie Raymond, Janulis said.
“It’s a good sign for the next couple years of the program to come.”
Out of 29 total goals this season, the freshmen have scored ten.
“Throughout the season they’ve shown how talented they are and surprised a lot of people,” Plaza said.
The team lose six crucial seniors from the 2015 season.
“Last season we had a few seniors that were really, really talented, and the transition’s been difficult, but we’re doing well. We have to play more as a team and be more regimented as a whole,” Dunn said.
Overall, last year’s seniors scored 28 out of the 66 goals of the season.
With a very close loss to Luther College and University of Chicago, the team is hopeful for seasons to come and the talent they’ve developed this season alone. Both teams are nationally ranked, UChicago being second in the nation, Luther being 16th.
“They were both close games so we see ourselves just trailing those two teams.” Banham said.
Dunn’s favorite memory of the season so far is easily the victory over Monmouth at home.
The team defeated Monmouth with eight shots on goal, 22 overall, and ended up with a 3-0 win. After losing to Monmouth last year, the team was extremely excited to take the victory.
“Our immediate goal is to beat Lake Forest for Homecoming,” sophomore and backup Goalkeeper Andrew Hind stated.
In the long run, the team would like to win conference, and make it to the national tournament.
Last year, the team lost in the conference championships and therefore didn’t have the opportunity to make it to the national tournament, Hind explained.
The outcome of Saturday will be crucial toward the path to hosting the conference tournament.
“We see that as a semi-final game before hosting the tournament because we have Lake Forest and then St. Norbert who are also competing with us to host a tournament so it is a must-win game for us,” said Banham, who is confident in his teammates abilities.
Dunn believes it’s important to never underestimate the opponent.
“Soccer’s that sport where anything can happen. On any given day any team can beat any team. We have to focus on thinking every team is just as good as every other team. We have to respect every opponent or we’ll end up getting a tie or a loss,” he explained.
The team is focused on the Lake Forest match on Saturday.
“We’ll be preparing all week, it’s one of the biggest games of the season,” Plaza said.
”If we’re gonna win the game the whole team has to be locked in, every single player from the starting striker to everyone on the bench, the intensity has to be there, the focus has to be there to take the win,” Dunn said.