The St. Olaf men’s soccer team squared off against the No. 2 ranked Loras College on Sept. 13 on Rolf Mellby Field. It was a closely contested matchup in which both teams had multiple opportunities to take control of the game.
Spurred on by a vocal and hostile crowd of over 300 people, the Oles began the game on the offensive, forcing the Duhawks to play on their heels for the first ten minutes of the game. This aggressive play paid off in the 12th minute, when a free kick by Matt Kessler ’15 slipped through the opposing goalkeeper’s hands, giving the Oles a 1-0 lead.
Despite the early goal, both teams struggled to create opportunities, and gameplay was limited to sparring and uncontrolled possession. The game continued this way until Loras began to pressure the Oles on the wings, with the Duhawks crossing the ball 17 times in comparison to St. Olaf’s 0. Loras equalized in the 25th minute off a header from Jorge Simon’16, drawing the game back level.
At this point, St. Olaf was forced on its heels as the Duhawks continued to press forward from all areas of the pitch, with shots frequently testing Ole goalkeeper Randall Rude ’18.
The second half continued in the same fashion as the first, with the Ole defense struggling to keep Loras away from its goal. With crosses coming in one after another it was no surprise that Loras scored once again in the 56th minute, when Alex Bradley ’16 lofted a ball up for Tom Fluegel ’18 to easily head into the goal, making the game 2-1.
The Loras strike seemed to be the catalyst for the St. Olaf players who soon began to push back against the Loras attack with their own attacking forays. The Oles had multiple chances throughout the middle of the second half, including several well hit shots, only to be saved by an impressive Loras goalkeeper. The game soon began to turn physical, with both sides picking up yellow cards and struggling to maintain possession. Another Ole free kick sailed inches wide of the goal post, adding to the list of missed opportunities. The outlook for the Oles seemed hopeless when Loras capitalized on a controversial penalty in the 81st minute by Simon. Despite this setback, the Oles kept themselves in the game by catching the Loras defense sleeping and scoring off a cross from Jens Undlin ’16 to Aaron Stets ’16 in the 82nd minute. The last remaining minutes were full of valiant efforts by the St. Olaf forwards, but the whistle blew, ending the game at 3-2. Despite the loss, the Oles competed with one of the top soccer teams in the entire nation. With that being said, the Oles can move on to their next games with the confidence and mentality that they can compete with any other team are pitted against.
Photo Credit: SIRI KELLER/MANITOU MESSENGER