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The Scarlet & Black

Soccer faces toughest season yet

Before the teams even had a chance to break in the leather on their cleats, both the Grinnell Men’s and Women’s soccer squads found themselves facing some of their toughest competition of the season. The Women’s team lost 4-0 against the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) powerhouse Augsburg College on Saturday, Sept. 3, while the Men’s team fought a hard battle against Albion College in Michigan, only to lose 3-2 in the last half. While the results were disappointing, both teams utilized the full extent of their lineups and emphasized the crucial performances of their younger players over the weekend.

Driving down from Minneapolis, the Augsburg Women’s team was fresh and ready for their first game of the regular season. Augsburg hails from the competitive MIAC division, which houses some of the nation’s top-ranked Division III teams, and immediately, the Pioneers noticed the high level of their opponent.

“The pace of the game [was] pretty fast, pretty physical,” said co-captain Nora Sahel ’17, while reflecting on the match. “Augsburg is a really disciplined team. Their passes are really good. They almost never gave up the ball to us when they got possession.”

Sahel and her co-captain, Carolyn Silverman ’17, did find a little bit of hope in the fact that during the game, a large number of Pioneers received time on the field, with some being forced into positions that they had not played in a while. Towards the end of the first half, Grinnell’s goalkeeper Polly Carr ’18 dived to save a ball, only to find an Augsburg striker connecting with the rebound at full speed, catching her in the face. Carr left the field with a concussion and an uncertain return date. In her place, Regan Kasprak ‘19, usually a left-back, put on the gloves. Despite the long stretch of time outside the net, Kasprak had a strong performance, letting in only one goal during the entire second half.

 “Not only did [Kasprack] step in, she made saves. She made four or five good saves. Really did a good job in punting, distributing the ball, overall just very impressive,” Sahel said.

The Men’s team, while also experiencing an injury-tinged loss on Saturday, had a slightly more positive outlook on their performance than the women. Albion also plays in a highly-competitive conference, and this showed during their strong, precision-focused match. Albion’s midfield easily wove through the Pioneer defensive line at very thin points, and their strikers took advantage of to sink two shots into the back of Grinnell’s net. But despite what the scoreboard showed, Captain Antionio DiMarco ’18, saw a different picture of the game.

“The craziest thing was, even though we were two-zero down, we were still maintaining better possession and we were creating better chances,” said DiMarco.

The Pioneers’ efforts began to pay off towards the end of the game. Kyle Buse ’20, a fresh first-year, sunk a beautiful shot into the upper-corner of the goal right before halftime, giving the team something to help raise their spirits. Coming out onto the pitch in the second half, the players knew that a victory was within their reach.

“If you’re going to be losing a game, you don’t want to be losing 1-0, you want to be losing 2-0. Because, what happens is when you’re losing 2-0 and you get a goal back, you have way more momentum within the team, than if you’re losing 1-0 and pull it even … So you’re still fighting tooth and nail for that second goal,” said DiMarco.

The streak continued for the Pioneers when right back Noah Fluharty’19 got fouled on in the goalie box and received a penalty kick that Nick Brule ’17 cleanly put away. This tide of momentum suddenly stopped, however, when Grinnell’s star midfielder, Francisco Sanchez-Conde ’18 was taken off the field with a high-ankle sprain. 

Lacking their glue in the midfield, Grinnell floundered for a few minutes and started flooding the field with change-ups and substitutions in order to keep Albion on their toes. But this last-ditch strategy did not push Grinnell to another goal and the Albion strikers were once again able to place a winning ball into the corner of the net. 

Despite the loss, DiMarco was proud of the team and was especially excited about the play he saw from this year’s dynamic first year class, which he labels as “the best incoming class” he has seen at Grinnell.

“It’s disappointing,” said DiMarco. “But there’s that silver-lining that guys who have never played in Division III before are stepping up and making the plays that we need to be competitive against a powerhouse.”

Both the Men and Women’s have games over the weekend, with the men’s team hosting Hamline University on Saturday and then heading off to Buena Vista University on Sunday. The women will be heading to Grand View College on Friday and Buena Vista University on Sunday.

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