The Men’s Soccer team enters this weekend’s Midwest Conference tournament as the number two seed, even though they have not lost a conference game all season.
Clinching the top seed in the conference would have also allowed Knox to host the championship tournament, but senior Terence Lau knows that regardless of what seed they were given, this Knox team can beat any of the other conference tournament qualifying teams.
“We haven’t lost to any of these teams, so we feel confident,” Lau said.
Top seed Lake Forest College, who Knox defeated earlier this season, will host the tournament and face fourth-seeded Grinnell College, who Knox tied with in their game this season. The third seed is St. Norbert College, who will have to get through Knox to advance.
Junior Phelipe Graske said it’s no surprise to him that these are the four teams that qualified for the tournament.
The match between Knox and St. Norbert is a rematch of last weekend’s match that ended in a 1-1 tie.
“It wasn’t the ideal result for us to tie them, but I feel very confident that with a week of preparation dedicated to this game and having seen them, we can picture how we match up and can beat them,” Lau said.
Knox Men’s Soccer has a history with Lake Forest College, as LFC beat Knox in the championship at this tournament a year ago, ending a promising season.
“Them being the top seed in the conference doesn’t scare us or anything,” Lau said. “Having a history with them is what drives us. So I think we all hope we see them in the finals so we can beat them to win the championship on their own home field.”
To face Lake Forest, Knox would have to defeat St. Norbert on Friday and see Lake Forest dispatch of Grinnell as well.
This, though, is no sure thing, as sophomore goalkeeper Justin Dunn explained, “These are cup matches. Anything can happen in a cup match at any time.”
For freshman Charlie Raymond, facing Grinnell again would be a great opportunity.
“We feel that we have a lot more to prove to Grinnell, so I think we were kind of hoping to see them again to show them what we can do,” Raymond explained.
Graske does not have any specific team he wants to face if the team advances to the championship game, as he said, “If you put us on the field with any of these teams in a cup match it’s all about us playing our game and overcoming the other team.”
Lau agrees with this, explaining that with the defense Knox has played all season, which he claimed “is definitely the best in the conference,” this team can beat anyone.
As for the potential matchup against Lake Forest on their home field, Graske is not nervous about the advantage that may give their potential opponent.
“This entire season we’ve been road-warriors. It doesn’t matter where we play, we just play our game we can win.”
If they do manage to defeat St. Norbert on Friday and advance to the finals, it will be the third straight season in which the Knox Men’s Soccer team plays in the conference championship game.
This experience among the older players, sophomore Markus Barbosa said, will help the team as they hope to break through and win the tournament.
“They’re used to these big games, and they’re a guide to all the younger players. They show us how to prepare for such big challenges.”
Lau looks forward to his final MWC tournament, though he is not thinking too far ahead or using this time to reflect on his four years on the Knox Men’s Soccer team.“This is what we look forward to all season and train for.”
Dunn is convinced this year’s team has an advantage over the one he was on last season, as well as the one before that.
“I think people want it a lot more this year, not to discredit past year’s teams. But we’ve seen this year what we can do against top ranked opponents and conference rivals.”
For Graske, this is only just the beginning of the Men’s Soccer team’s postseason.
“We have known all year that we would be here. The conference tournament has never been our end goal. Winning a national championship is our goal.”