Hansen improves program in first year


Jason Howell

Senior Will Butler and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville's Devyn Jambga square off during a corner kick during the Panthers' 4-3 extra time loss on Nov. 4 at Lakeside Field. The Panthers lost to Oral Roberts on Saturday 5-0.

Mark Shanahan, Staff Reporter

The Eastern men’s soccer team finished up the season with a 3-13-1 record and a 1-4-1 record in the Summit League. The Panthers were 0-9 on the road and had a 3-4-1 record at home. They finished the season on a three game losing streak, missing their conference tournament.

This was the fourth season that Eastern played in the Summit league. The Panthers have won one conference game in each of the four years. Oral Roberts and Fort Wayne are the only conference teams they have defeated since joining the Summit League.

Eastern coach Mark Hansen, who finished his first season leading the Panthers, said the win against Fort Wayne was his team’s best performance of the season.

“I think the strongest game of the year for us was our match at home against IPFW, as it was a complete performance on both sides of the ball for 90 minutes,” he said. “Even in that match we left quite a few quality chances for goals on the table, but stayed strong in the back and came up with the necessary plays to win the game.”

Eastern defeated IPFW 2-0 on Oct. 26, at Lakeside Field, with goals from senior Jake Brillhart and freshman Dominic Recca.

Eastern struggled on offense this year, which resulted in being shutout seven times.

Brillhart, who was Eastern’s captain, led the team with five goals and four assists giving him 14 total points. He was one of the team leaders last year with four goals and five assists. Brillhart appeared in all 17 games the past two years for the Panthers.

Recca was the second leading scorer for Eastern, with four goals and three assists giving him 11 total points. Recca was a four-year varsity starter in high school where he helped his team win back-to-back state titles at St. Dominic in Missouri.

After the first three games of the year, freshman goalkeeper Mike Novotny took over the starting job over sophomore Ben Feltes. Novotny had a 2-11 record, but played well and only gave up one goal in six of the games he appeared in. The most goals he gave up in a game was the last game of the season against Oral Roberts, which scored five goals on Novotny. He earned his first career shutout on Oct. 26, against conference opponent Fort Wayne.

Hansen said he is focused on progressing his current players for next season and has no clear starters named.

“As we start to prepare for 2015, our focus right now is on improving all the returning players individually for the next couple months and then as a collective whole in the spring,” he said. “We won’t have any starters until our first regular season game on Aug. 28, next year.”

Hansen just completed his first year as head coach, but he has been with the program for six years. Hansen improved the team, which won just one game last year. Jake Plant served as the assistant coach this year and attends graduate school at Eastern.

Hansen said he saw many players progress this year, one being junior Kyle Callender.

“One of the biggest has to be current junior Kyle Callender, who stepped into a leadership role in our backline this year and responded by being the most consistent performer even though he has been bothered by a multitude of injuries since start of conference play at the beginning of October,” Hansen said.

Hansen also highlighted the play of the freshmen class.

“They combined to start in 64 matches, scoring five goals and assisting six goals,” Hansen said. “Also with three of them playing majority of the minutes in the back they helped us to our best season goals against since 2011.”

Eastern will lose Brillhart, Colin Rook, Will Butler, Chris Boswell, Tayron Martin and Spencer Filosa to graduation. Hansen credited the senior leadership that is leaving the program.

“They have contributed a lot over the four years and in these past 10 months have done an incredible job in working to change a culture,” he said. “The guys returning, they have a lot to live up to but the seniors have done a great job in helping prepare those players to step up into those roles.”

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