MEN’S SOCCER: Tops shake rust, beat Lambuth

Michael Casagrande

Coming off one of the best seasons in school history, Western had little time to prepare for its first test.

Only four days into practice, the Toppers defeated Lambuth University 2-0 last Thursday in the first of two exhibition matches. Western used 21 players in the victory over the NAIA school.

The Toppers got off to a slow start, allowing Lambuth to control the ball for most of the first half.

“I think a lot of it was jitters,” junior forward Steven Metlock said.

The Toppers are coming off a 10-9-1 season that included only their second trip to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals.

Western shook off the summer rust late in the first half against the Eagles when Metlock scored on a header in the 35th minute.

“Once we got into a groove, we started to settle down,” Metlock said. “Once we got that first goal, everyone seemed to relax.”

The ball spent most of the first half on Lambuth’s end of the field. Western held the Eagles to just one shot.

Junior forward Richard Mupfudze had a scoring opportunity in front of the net in the closing seconds of the half, but Eagle goalkeeper Brenton Saylor kept the ball from reaching the net.

Western added the final goal in the 81st minute when junior forward Daniel Payne found the back of the net.

The Toppers used three goalkeepers, stopping all seven Lambuth shots. Junior Matt Latimer started and played the entire first half before freshman Kyle Schroeder spent 41:20 minding the net. Redshirt freshman Ryan Simpson played the final minutes in goal.

Western is looking to find a replacement for graduated goalkeeper Daryl Sattler. Coach David Holmes said all three goalkeepers have a chance to be the starter when the season opens Sept. 3 against Oral Roberts University.

“It’s up for grabs,” Holmes said. “We lost a talented guy in Daryl Sattler. We have three guys working extremely hard. It is too early to tell.”

Latimer, the only keeper with college experience, played in two games last season.

Latimer said he is ready to take a starting role, but taking the place of Sattler will be difficult.

“It’s definitely big shoes to fill,” Latimer said. “He left a big hole on defense. Goalkeeper is a big responsibility. You have to be strong and confident.”

Sophomore Wade Roepke started the first nine games as goalkeeper last season because Sattler was injured. Roepke will play defense this season.

When Western needs an offensive boost, it will look to Mupfudze and Payne.

Payne led the team with 10 goals and 22 points last season. Mupfudze, a preseason all-Missouri Valley Conference selection wasn’t far behind, scoring eight goals and collecting 21 points.

After playing with Metlock and Mupfudze for two seasons, Payne said the trio has great chemistry.

“It is our third year playing together,” Payne said. “So I think that it is just getting better every year. I think we are getting more comfortable.”

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]