The new-look Hilltoppers are facing some familiar problems. After jumping out to a 4-0 start, an inconsistent men’s soccer team has gone 2-5-1 over its last eight games.
The Toppers also started 4-0 last year, but then stumbled to a 7-10 finish.
Now they’re trying to prevent this year’s campaign from finding the same fate.
Western (6-5-1, 0-2) must try and find the win column this weekend, as they try to climb back up the Missouri Valley Conference ranks.
The Toppers play at Creighton tomorrow and at Drake on Sunday.
Those opponents played each other last weekend and drew a 1-1 tie. Creighton was No. 22 then, but dropped out of the top 25 this week.
Western played No. 10 Bradley even for 88 minutes on Sunday before allowing the heartbreaking game-winner.
“I definitely think that we can take a lot out of this loss,” junior defender Ron Plute said. “It gives us confidence to know that we can play with anybody.”
They’ll try to use that confidence to get back on the upswing.
“We showed this weekend where we are as a team,” Western coach David Holmes said. “We are a young team, and we’re inconsistent. But I think that we can put it all together and get a win this weekend.”
The Toppers are 0-6 all-time against Creighton and are faced with the task of stopping the Blue Jays’ All-American forward Mike Tranchilla.
“You have to face every game differently,” Holmes said. “We are going to need the size and strength of Plute and Scott (DeGaris). We depend on Darryl (Sattler) and Ron, and Scott is obviously a valuable player.”
Holmes said that defenders Clay McMillan and Brad Benz have also been playing well.
“Clay has really been improving everyday as a defender,” he said.
Sattler, the team’s junior goalkeeper, said the steadily improving crew is starting to learn to play as a unit.
“We’ve played a lot better as we have gotten farther into the season,” he said. “We are really coming along the more we play together.”
The Toppers have seven remaining games, all of which are conference games. It will take a strong finish for this year’s team to avoid repeating a disappointing history.
“Expectations are high, and we are a resilient group,” Holmes said. “I think we will be ready to play by kickoff.”
Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]