Panthers have good postseason chances

Matheus Santos tries to head a ball past a defender, who is looking on. Eastern lost 2-0 to Milwaukee Tuesday at Lakeside Field.

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News

Matheus Santos tries to head a ball past a defender, who is looking on. Eastern lost 2-0 to Milwaukee Tuesday at Lakeside Field.

Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editor

The Eastern men’s soccer team faces a tough task ahead if the Panthers want to make the Summit League tournament.

With just six teams in the conference, making the tournament is already a tight race.

As of right now, Eastern inhabits the fourth-place spot in the conference standings, and the rest of its schedule is not indicative of an easy path to the postseason.

Firstly, Denver and Fort Wayne are the teams behind Eastern right now (Denver is 0-1-1 in conference, like Eastern, but Eastern has the tiebreaker).

Eastern’s final home game is Saturday against Omaha, who is second in conference only because of a tiebreak loss to first-place Oral Roberts.

Even though the game is home, Omaha will be a tough opponent to beat. If recent history is any indicator, Eastern has a somewhat fair chance against Omaha: Last year, Eastern lost to the Mavericks 1-0, but tied them 0-0 in 2017.

Eastern’s best bet to make the conference tournament is to win two of its final conference matches or, at the least, tie in one of them.

Specifically, the matches against Omaha and Fort Wayne are the Panthers’ best bet.

Eastern has competed against Omaha the last two seasons, and this year’s match will be at home. Maybe the home field and crowd could be a boost for Eastern.

No matter what, possibly the most important thing for Eastern is defeating Omaha Saturday.

Doing so would give Eastern much-valued and much-needed conference points before going on the road to close out the year.

Rounding out the conference schedule, Eastern faces Western Illinois Oct. 26 and Fort Wayne Nov. 2, and both matches are on the road.

Western Illinois is third in the conference, with a 1-1 record. The Leathernecks’ conference win came against Denver, who Eastern tied with.

So, even though Eastern defeated Western last year, that was at home, and Western has 12 goals so far this season, almost eclipsing their total of 13 last year.

With a seemingly revamped Western team, there is no guarantee of a victory against the Leathernecks. Not only is Western seemingly better this year, but also the Leathernecks defeated Denver 4-3.

Not to mention, the day Eastern visits the Leathernecks is Western’s senior day, so there will be extra motivation for a win.

Fort Wayne, last in the conference this season, appears like it is no threat to Eastern, but playing in front of a home crowd against a conference opponent can make weird things happen.

Fort Wayne is simply the worst team in the conference so far, so that would likely be the easiest (theoretically) match to win of any in the conference for Eastern.

The chances of Eastern making the conference tournament are pretty good as is.

Denver is Eastern’s only real threat to take the last postseason spot, but Denver has to play Omaha and Oral Roberts yet.

If Eastern were to win two matches, or win one and tie one (or tie two), that should give the Panthers enough points to keep it in position to make the postseason.

Eastern’s tough journey to the conference tournament begins Saturday, when the Panthers host Omaha at noon.


Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].