Men’s soccer team opens Summit League play

Red-shirt+freshman+Sean+Kirwan+sprints+ahead+of+two+opponents+during+a+match+against+Culver-Stockton+on+Sept.+8+at+Lakeside+Field.++The+Panthers+beat+the+Wildcats+5-1.++The+Panthers+are+2-5+overall.

Jason Howell

Red-shirt freshman Sean Kirwan sprints ahead of two opponents during a match against Culver-Stockton on Sept. 8 at Lakeside Field. The Panthers beat the Wildcats 5-1. The Panthers are 2-5 overall.

Mark Shanahan, Staff Reporter

The Eastern men’s soccer team begins Summit League play tomorrow against the Omaha Mavericks after going 2-5 in non-conference play.

Omaha went 6-9-1 last year, going 3-3 in conference, finishing third.

This will be the third meeting between Omaha and Eastern. Omaha leads the all-time series 2-0 and defeated Eastern 3-0 last year on the road. Omaha is currently 3-3-1 this year and is coming off a loss against Cal State Fullerton.

The loss against Cal State Fullerton was Omaha’s first loss of September. Fullerton outshot Omaha 20-4, causing red-shirt freshman goalkeeper Joseph Ghitis to make a career high 6 saves.

Red-shirt junior Josh Christensen also had time at goalkeeper this year. Ghitis and Christensen have a combined 1.34 goals against average. Christensen and three others have won Summit League Player of the Week honors this year for Omaha.

Vance Rockwood is Omaha’s leading scorer on the year with eight points and four goals matching his goal total from last year. The senior from Jamaica was awarded Summit League Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 9 and was named to the All-Summit League second team in 2012.

Eastern head coach Mark Hansen is familiar with Omaha.

“They are going to be aggressive, they are attack oriented, and they like to play,” he said. “It’ll be a tough matchup for us but I think if we prepare properly we’ll be in the game at the end of the day.”

Hansen is looking at his upperclassmen to make an impact for the first conference game of the year.

“We definitely need the upperclassman to step up this weekend,” he said. “We’ll be looking to our senior leadership and the juniors to really make a statement in that game and show us what we need to do going forward.”

Hansen said Denver, Omaha and Western Illinois are the top teams to beat in conference but acknowledges a tough Summit League field.

“Not to take anything away from the other teams because they are all very good sides that haven’t gotten results and on the day can beat you,” he said.

Denver is the preseason favorite to win the Summit League this year after going 6-0 in conference and winning the conference tournament last year.

Hansen has not determined who will be in goal or any starter for that matter.

“Every week, every position is open,” he said. “We really allow the guys to battle. Not any one name on the roster right now in regards to starter or not.”

Eastern seeks its first road win since 2012 when it plays Omaha at 7 p.m. on the road Saturday.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]