Men’s soccer host’s undefeated Denver

Mark Shanahan, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Denver Pioneers have yet to lose a game in regulation this year with a record of 8-0-2 and the Panthers will host them Saturday.

Denver is the defending champs of the Summit League and is aiming to win the league title for the third year in a row. Denver is 1-0 in conference with a 4-3 win over Fort Wayne on Sept. 24.

Eastern men’s coach Kiki Lara said what has made Denver good over the years.

“That’s a built program over about 10 years,” he said. “It’s just the fact that they’ve been consistent and have had continuity between coaches and style and stuff so I would say the key there is continuity and consistency and are well coached and have a good program.”

Last year, Eastern traveled to Denver and lost 1-0. The year before that Denver traveled to Eastern for the first time ever and the game ended in a draw. They are still seeking their first ever win over Denver as they’ve gone 0-2-1 against them so far.

Eastern is currently 2-6-1 overall with a 0-1 record in conference play. The Panthers are also in the midst of a four-game losing streak dating back to Sept. 14. Lara wants his team to get back to building every day and get back to their style.

“I want to get back to us,” he said. “Just building everyday on what we do well as to tactically what we do well, defensively, the integrity that we have, the discipline that we’ve had, offensively moving forward and adding to that. We’re a young squad up top and we’re getting better and better so I just want to add.”

Eastern showed it could compete with a nationally ranked team like Denver in last year’s one-goal loss and being at home could also be beneficial to the Panthers. Denver has five players with multiple goals so far this year, but the team leader is Blake Elder with five. Another player to watch, Alex Underwood has three goals and two assists, but the key stat to look at is his three game-winning goals.

Lara is not looking at Denver as a superior team heading into Saturday.

“Any game is a game that in Division I college soccer its so much parody that any game is a difficult game,” he said. “I don’t think they’re coming in here thinking they’re going to steamroll anybody and I don’t think we’re coming in here thinking they are going to be a team we can’t beat. So I think it’s going to be a heck of a game.”

Although it is the second Summit League matchup of the year, Lara sees any of the conference games as crucial points.

“Every conference game there is points on the line and you just have to have an attitude about winning,” he said. “It’s an attitude that you want to go out there and win.”

Lara said the team is a “little down” with injuries including freshman Alessandro Corti who went down with an injury against Oral Roberts and did not play against Valparaiso. He added that goalkeeper Mike Novotny is back now and others who have been contributors have been in and out of the lineup due to injury.

The match is set to begin at Lakeside Field Saturday at Noon.

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