Column: Newcomers, young players stepping up for men’s soccer team

Mark Shanahan, Assistant Sport's Editor

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Newcomers and underclassmen have been key to the men’s soccer team this season, and that trend needs to continue moving forward if the Panthers want to compete in the Summit League.

With three games remaining until conference play, and a record of 1-2-1, the men will need to start scoring more goals to avoid these one-point losses. That is a clearly obvious statement given the objective of the sport, but I have seen many one-point decisions or draws that the Panthers should have won from Lara’s team this year and last year.

The good news for the Panthers is that Lara’s recruits and transfers are starting to make a difference. Junior Tyler Enright, a transfer from Southwestern Illinois College, helped the men to their first victory of the season against Green Bay two weeks ago. He was assisted by freshman Yann Nsoga who sent a nice cross for Enright to get a header past the goalkeeper.

And then there was freshman Alex Castaneda who scored his first goal in the final seconds of that game with an assist from fellow freshman Jonathan Huerta via the long clearance. Scoring that first collegiate goal should give them more confidence when they have the ball in opponent territory.

Freshmen Alessandro Corti, Marcus Menniti and Anton Olsson along with Nsoga and Castaneda have all played in the first four games. Lara is putting the young guys out there, and it will most likely pay off for the team in the long run.

The Panthers lead their opponents in shots on goal percentage with .458 compared to their opponents’ .324. The percentage is high because of the four players with a 1.000 shots on goal percentage. Castaneda is 2-for-2 with shots on goal, while Enright, junior Justin Oliver and sophomore Trevor Kerns are each 1-for-1. Senior Davis Wegmann is the team leader in shots on goal with three.

While the new guys are starting to come along, we cannot forget about veteran goalkeeper Mike Novotny, who is leading all Summit League goalkeepers in minutes with 390. The junior has earned almost every starting nod since he first stepped on campus and is now fourth all-time in the Eastern record books for career minutes played with 3,105. The win against Green Bay marked his first shutout of the season.

With the team coming off a 10-day break, the Panthers can be expected to have fresh legs and dominate St. Ambrose at home before going on the road for three games.

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