Nyden Hill – Staff Writer
The Gustie men’s soccer team is continuing to finish off their regular season with a bang. Riding the momentum of an undefeated year, the Gusties took to their home field in their 13th contest of the season to face the St. Olaf Oles.
Going into this matchup, the Gusties sat at 8-0-4 for the season and 5-0-1 in the MIAC, while the Oles were 9-4 on the season and 6-1 in the MIAC. With their winning records, these two teams are ranked in the MIAC rankings as first and second in the conference, respectively. Considering this, the matchup was pivotal for both teams and their seasons as the winner would take absolute control of the MIAC standings.
“This was a really big game for us. St. Olaf was undefeated in the MIAC last year, which nobody had done in a long time. They beat us last year, so this was a really big game coming into it,” Junior Jared Hecht said.
Hecht was not the only Gustie to share this sentiment.
“Everybody knew what was at stake in this game. Everybody had a plan and we just really focused on the game and wanted to win it,” Junior Carlos Robles said.
“We had a lot of excitement. Everyone was prepared to give it their all because they understood how crucial this game was and how it could affect the MIAC regular season winner,” Junior Yahya Bashir said.
From the very beginning, the Gusties looked dominant. Just six minutes into the action, the Gusties attempted to score, with a stopped shot on the goal by Sophomore Teig O’Kelley. That shot was then followed up by one by Junior Owen Johnson that was saved by Ole goalie Austin Williams.
This was the story of the game for much of the first half, as the Gusties took many shots on the goal but made none. For the Gusties, the pivotal point in the match came from Robles. With 11 minutes left in the half, Robles scored a goal from the corner that gave the Gusties control with a 1-0 lead going into halftime.
“We were on the corner and my whole role was to go back into the middle and be uncovered by the opposing players. I hit it with my weak foot and it went in. Celebrating with the whole team was just really cool,” Robles said.
Starting the second period, the Oles seemed to be trying to make up for the control that they lacked for much of the first half. This was punctuated by a St. Olaf goal courtesy of Junior Casey McCloskey. However, the Gusties knew this would be a challenging match and knew the importance of getting a win, so they came prepared to dig in and mount a response.
“Olaf has a very talented midfield and attacking three, so we really had to work hard to collapse space and really not give them a lot of time on the ball,” Hecht said.
Just 13 minutes after the Ole goal, the Gusties mounted an offensive attack of their own, with a goal from Johnson at the 65 minute mark giving the Gusties back the lead with a 2-1 score.
With this in mind, the Gusties were able to hold steady and maintain their lead to advance to 9-0-4 overall and 6-0-1 in the MIAC, placing Gustavus firmly in control of the conference standings.
Senior goalie Wesley Sanders was a standout defensively. He led the Gusties, collecting five saves, while Robles and Johnson were able to add to their goal season totals of two and six, respectively.
With this key win in mind, the Gusties have some pretty big hopes and goals as they near the end of the season and head into conference play.
“We only have three conference games left and you can’t drop points. Even though we are ‘supposed to win,’ they are still important games. We hope to finish first in the conference so that we get a regular-season championship and a number one seed in the playoffs and make a run in the NCAA tournament,” Hecht said.