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The Scarlet & Black

Two Goals in Final Minutes Help Men Qualify for MWC Tournament

By Danielle Williams 

williams11@grinnell.edu

The men’s soccer team entered this past weekend with a 4-4 record in Midwest Conference play and two conference games remaining. One loss and their season would be over. With a 5-1 victory at Lawrence College Saturday and a narrow 2-1 win over Ripon College at home on Sunday, the team now has more games to look forward to.

Thanks to two goals in the final minutes Sunday, the team will be playing in the Midwest Conference tournament this weekend at Lake Forest.   The team was able to pull together after being down 1-0 for the first 84 minutes of the 90-minute contest. Joey Brown ’15 (see “Spotlight” on page 14) scored with an assist from Benjamin Warner ’15. Then, with only a few minutes left in the game, Victor Ghazal ’16 scored to put the Pioneers in the lead for good.

Reed Caron ’13 fights for a header with Alex Marker ’13 and Joey Saenz ’16 at practice this week . Photo by Connie Lee.

“Joey scored with 6 minutes left and then I don’t know what happened … we were having opportunities but [we couldn’t make the goal],” Ghazal said. “Then with three minutes left, Warner took a free kick and the goalie spilled it. I just had a feeling he was going to drop it so I just pushed by a few defenders and put [the ball] in.”

The goal came as a surprise to many including Ghazal.

“After I scored, I couldn’t believe the goalie spilled it—he was making some really good saves so I was just shocked that he’d dropped the ball that easily.” Victor said. “It was really a great thing to be a part of.”

Though new to the college soccer experience, Victor isn’t at all a novice in the game. He played for eight years at the club level before college.

“I’ve been playing… ever since I was little; my dad has always been putting me in situations to get better. So I guess I’m just blessed in that sense.” Victor said.
The team, although young, has been working together incredibly well. According to their head coach, Brian Jaworski, their wins should be attributed to the team’s passion and exceptional playing approach. Although the coach might deny it, members of team credit him as the real reason behind how well they’re playing.

“Lately we’ve really come together. Ever since the Beloit game in early October, we’ve really gelled together,” Ghazal said. “Coach really brought us together in a way that [we weren’t before], and I think we’ve hit our prime at the right time.”

With the conference tournament coming up, Coach Jaworski is confident that the team will fare well against the top seed and regular-season league champion, Lake Forest College. The Foresters have an intimidating weapon, Mahir Mameledzija, who scored 27 goals in the regular season. Coach Jaworski doesn’t underestimate Lake Forest, but is certain that the Pioneers are equipped well enough to challenge and defeat Mameledzija and Lake Forest.

“We have the personnel to accomplish this task and our tactical approach beyond him is a good one. It is going to be a very difficult day. We know that and we think we can handle what it is going to take to win that game,” Jaworski said.

These upcoming games could lead the team to a spot in the NCAA tournament and the Pioneers are up for the challenge. Grinnell will play Lake Forest Friday in the semifinals and if they can advance, will play Saturday in the conference championship with an NCAA tournament berth on the line.

“Of course, we are pumped to be back in the tournament. The post-season has begun. We love it, we crave it, and we will give everything we have. We’re ready.  We are doing the little things very well right now,” Jaworski said. “We have a great [goalkeeper]. We are a very tight-knit group right now. There is no reason to think anything other than we can win this tournament.”

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