Three games remain for men’s soccer

Mark Shanahan, Assistant Sports Editor

Freshman defender Marcus Menniti fights for possession with Valparaiso senior midfielder Isaiah Madrid during the Panthers' 3-0 loss Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Lakeside Field.
Lauren McQueen
Freshman defender Marcus Menniti fights for possession with Valparaiso senior midfielder Isaiah Madrid during the Panthers’ 3-0 loss Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Lakeside Field.

The Eastern men’s soccer team was rained out on Wednesday night at Cincinnati for its final non-conference game.

Looking ahead, Eastern has three games remaining this year, all against Summit League opponents. Luckily for the Panthers, two of the final three games will be played at Lakeside Field. The first matchup will be Sunday against Fort Wayne.

Fort Wayne is 7-7 on the year, but they find themselves at the bottom half of the Summit League standings with a 1-2 record. The two losses came by one goal against the top teams Denver and Omaha. They defeated Oral Roberts for their only conference win.

Eastern will head into this game very well rested; they have not played since Oct. 11. They won a hard fought game 1-0 against Northern Illinois that showed that this team is capable of sticking with anyone.

Although Eastern is 3-9-1, they have had eight games decided by one goal this season. The Panthers are 2-6 in those games, but if they can get the offense going they will be able to get points in the standing from draws or wins.

The defense has been strong for the Panthers this year with junior goalkeeper Mike Novotny starting all but one game this season. Novotny made six saves in the shutout win against Northern Illinois and they will need him to continue that strong play if they want to earn a trip to the conference tournament.

Eastern has scored 11 goals this season by 10 different players, proving they have been able to spread the offense around. Senior Davis Wegmann is the team’s only player with two goals this season. Fort Wayne has been shutout three games in a row coming into this matchup; Eastern will need to find that one goal.

The last game for Eastern showed if they could score one goal they can rely on their defense to hold on for the win. The Panthers most likely need to win all three of their remaining games to make it to the postseason. The remaining schedule includes Western Illinois at home and then IUPUI on the road after Fort Wayne.

Western Illinois is currently third in the standings and in the postseason hunt, the top four teams go to the postseason tournament. They are 2-1 in league play and 6-6-1 overall. They were recently shutout 2-0 against Denver and will face Omaha before they meet Eastern.

IUPUI is 1-12 this season and 0-4 in conference. The only victory this season came against Northern Illinois. They have lost five in a row since that victory and have been shutout four straight games. They have only scored five goals this season through 13 games.

Eastern and IUPUI are the only teams to not record a conference win this season. Eastern’s problem is not scoring enough goals to equal the 21 goals they have given up this season, which is the fourth least in the conference.

Fort Wayne and Western Illinois will not be easy tasks, but IUPUI has struggled mightily and is a very winnable game for Eastern. If Eastern can win its next two games, their schedule makes it possible for them to make the postseason.

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