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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Soccer clinches spot in MWC Tournament

by Max Calenberg
The Grinnell College Men’s Soccer team secured their place in the Midwest Conference (MWC) Tournament, with a victory against Lake Forest College this past Saturday.
Following their win, the Pioneers lost 3-4 to non-conference opponent Wartburg College on Wednesday at home. The team was down 1-3 with two minutes left and managed to score two goals to send the game to overtime. But Wartburg sealed their victory with a penalty kick.
Despite the loss, midfielder Matti Sahel ’11 was proud of how his team played.
“This game should be a good building block for us before we enter the MWC tournament,” Sahel said in an email. “Wartburg is a regionally ranked team, and scoring three goals against them was a big positive for us. That’s what kept us in the game and that’s what is going to help us win the conference tournament.”
In order to reach the MWC Tournament for a fourth consecutive year, the Pioneers had to beat the Foresters while dealing with injuries, suspension and an untested goal keeper. After starter Ben Schemper ’11 was forced to sit out due to a red card in a previous game against Ripon, and back-up with Greg Fox ’12 suffering a hip injury, team manager Nate Hoch ’11 suited up to defend the net. Hoch allowed one goal and grabbed seven saves. His performance, when coupled with a duo of goals by Justin Koester ’10 and an additional score by Andrew Stephenson ’10, led to a 3-1 win.
Fox was incredibly impressed by Hoch’s game, but not surprised, especially considering the game field’s conditions.
“He is very good at getting balls on the ground, that’s one of his strongest points,” said Fox. “Fortunately, that field was really wet so nobody was hitting great shots, a lot of the shots were right on the ground, so that played right into our hands.”
Suffering from a slow start this season, the squad has improved significantly as the season progressed, finishing third in the regular season MWC standings.
Team Captain and defender J.P. Prouty ’10 has seen this team come further than any from his years with the Pioneers.
“This team has definitely grown the most out of any team [I have been on at Grinnell]. We started out the year as a fractioned team—we weren’t working as a whole,” Prouty said. “Throughout the season we’ve definitely figured out how to play with each other.”
Greg Fox attributes a lot of the squad’s development to team Captain Andrew Stephenson’s actions in a midseason game against St. Nobert in which the Pioneers won 3-1.
“We couldn’t really score goals at the beginning of the season, but against St. Norbert, [Stephenson] had the best on-the-field leadership—just through play, without yelling and screaming at people, strictly leading by example—I’ve ever seen,” Fox said. “I really think he got us going.”
The numbers show a change too, as the Pioneers have scored 10 goals in their past four games while they only managed 14 goals in their first 12 matches.
With the turnaround, the Pioneers have clinched a MWC Tournament berth and a first round match against St. Norbert next weekend. The Grinnell Men’s Soccer team will end their regular season against Knox College at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at home on Springer Field. With the MWC Tournament clinched though, Head Coach Brian Jaworski wants his team to play like it.
“[Jawowrski] is a game-by-game guy, but he’s told us to keep the Conference Tournament in the back of our heads,” Sahel said.  “That is what we really want.”

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