Men’s soccer hosts Saint Francis


Sean Hastings

Redshirt sophomore Daymon Blackport dribbles past the Saint Xavier defender in the Panthers exhibition win Aug. 15 at Lakeside Field.

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

Coming off three consecutive games in which it has shut out its opponent and a streak of five games where it has surrendered just two total goals, the formidable Eastern defense will face a school that, despite its NAIA status, boasts a high scoring and productive offense.

When the Eastern men’s soccer team hosts Saint Francis, who although is just a NAIA school, this Sunday, the Panthers will view them and their high-octane offense no differently than any other opponent this season.

“We don’t take anybody lightly,” Eastern head coach Kiki Lara said. “With the NAIA tag, it is at times more frightening because of the different rules. I have played at the Division II level, I have played at the NAIA level, and some of these teams can be the best teams in the country. Not necessarily Saint Francis, I’m not sure, we are still doing research on that, but these teams can be built with some of the best players in the country.”

Saint Francis has outscored its opponents 13-4 in four games this season and outshot them at an equally alarming 109-39 clip over that span.

Likewise, the Eastern defense is also playing at a high level which could be setting these teams up for a fire-and-ice type matchup.

“We look at it the same way (we have looked at) the last four or five games,” Lara said. “I think that with the defending team that we have, it’s a strength of ours. So, we can approach every game in that manner. There is nothing different, we have actually played some of the best offensive teams in the region, and so if this is one that is high-powered, it is just another opportunity for us to see a good attacking program.”

Saint Francis’ leading goal scorers on the season are junior midfielder Kelvin Ndlovu and junior defender Mohamad Rashid, who each have three goals on the year.

Eastern’s last three games came in a span of five days, two of which went into double overtime adding minutes, but now the Panthers will receive a five-day break between their last game against Northern Kentucky and the upcoming matchup against Saint Francis.

The extra days off have allowed Eastern time to recover and recuperate some minor muscle and general injuries for Sunday. Thursday, Lara split his team into three groups based on how many minutes each group played to help the team’s growth. 

“Development is one of the key pillars to our program, and there is a lot of players that haven’t played minutes that are still absolutely vital to the team,” Lara said. “So, this is a great opportunity for them to spend time getting most of the reps in and continue developing.”

The game will be played Sunday at Lakeside Field at 3:30 p.m.

It will be Eastern’s last home game until Sept. 19, when they return to Lakeside Field to play Wright State.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]