MEN’s SOCCER: Toppers start MVC play with road split

Joanie Baker

Like the end of a suspenseful movie, Western sighed a deep breath of relief thinking all was back to normal – thinking its losing days were over.

With goalkeeper Daryl Sattler back in the box, the Toppers were able to shut out Eastern Illinois 2-0 Friday night in Charleston, Ill.

But the team’s battle was not won yet. While still in Illinois, the Toppers played their second round of conference play Sunday. But even Sattler could not pull them out, as they gave up four goals to Bradleyand lost 4-1.

There was no doubt that the team came out pumped up about Sattler’s first game of the season since his preseason injury. Sophomore Steven Medlock said it gave the team a tremendous boost, and helped them accomplish one of their goals.

“We concentrated a full 90 minutes,” Medlock said. “We played our first complete game. Daryl made us feel more comfortable, and we are finally starting to gel as a team and wouldn’t have lost if we had played as well earlier as we are now.”

Coach David Holmes said this was the team’s best game of the year because it put together a complete effort and was able to get the first goal.

“Getting the first goal was crucial,” Holmes said. “We were against the wind in the first half, they had the pressure against us. Then in the second half, we came out with the wind to our back.”

Though the Panthers (5-4-1, 0-1 Missouri Valley) outshot Western 6-4 in the first half, they were unable to get one past Sattler. Then in the second half, sophomore Daniel Payne secured the win, adding a goal in the first three minutes.

“There were a lot of things on the line with this being a conference game,” sophomore Clay McMillan said. “Last year they beat us 4-1, so we owed them one. We won all the 50-50s and everything up in the air.”

With much of its energy used up from Friday’s game, the team faced Bradley on Sunday with a little less energy than it would have liked.

“We had to adjust to a different style of team and the physical wear on our team,” Holmes said. “It would have been pretty sweet … but the important thing is that the guys gave it a shot. They played a team that was better than us on the day.”

Just before halftime, the Braves (7-5, 2-0 MVC) got on the scoreboard with the first goal of the game. In the second half, two more goals were added in 15 minutes, before Sattler was replaced with freshman Wade Roepke.

Sophomore Jacob Isenhour interrupted their scoring streak with a penalty kick, but Bradley put another one in the net, sweeping any chance of a comeback from the Hilltoppers.

“We didn’t concentrate,” Medlock said. “Other teams are going to punish us for that. We had three miscues and lost three goals in the second half. When we get frustrated, we start making really stupid mistakes.”

Western will continue conference play against Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. Friday at the Soccer Complex on Creason Street If the Toppers win, it’ll be the program’s 200th win.

Reach Joanie Baker at [email protected]