The men’s soccer team’s next challenge is Western Illinois, and the Panthers’ aim is to spoil the Leathernecks’ senior night Saturday and move up in the Summit League standings.
Currently Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois sit at third and fourth place in the standings, respectively. The Panthers are coming off a tough, earned 0-0 double overtime tie against second-place Omaha.
The Panther defense stood out in that game. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jonathan Burke set the tone early when he saved a penalty kick in the fifth minute and then saved the rebound off the shot.
The Leathernecks are coming off a 2-0 win against Fort Wayne on the road.
Eastern’s defense has been tested by the conference best, in Omaha and Oral Roberts.
“The defense and the whole team has been focusing on beating WIU at their home field,” Burke said. “It hasn’t been done in a long time that we beat our interstate rivals at their place. We know it’s gonna be an all-out battle.”
Eastern’s defense consists of freshmen that have not only been tested, but have flourished in their new roles.
Quinn Rechner and Delphy Sabu have made their marks in the 2019 season. Head coach Kiki Lara has said previously that both have the potential to be some of the greatest defenders in the program’s history.
“The new guys have not been in a scenario like this before and being new comes with adapting to the environment which is what they have been doing all season getting ready for any scenario,” Burke said. “We as returners need to push them in order to get in the right mindset for everyone.”
In 2018, the Panthers defeated the Leathernecks 1-0 in double-overtime at home. Redshirt senior Christian Sosnowski scored the game-winning goal.
Sosnowski says beating the Leathernecks is a priority this year as well.
“I want to win Saturday, that’s our main focus,” Sosnowski said. “Individually, sure it would be awesome to score another overtime winner against our in-state foes, but I’m mainly focusing on getting the three points in one way or the other.”
The Panthers have not been able to score a goal in the last two games.
Despite that, the Panther offense has nine goal-scorers in 2019: Junior Davi Giradi, junior Shady Omar, Sosnowski, senior Alex Casteneda, redshirt freshman Munir Sherali, senior Edgar Mesa, redshirt sophomore Cameron Behm, freshman Maxwell Allen and sophomore Nate Francke.
Omar is the leading scorer with three goals on the season.
Burke and the Panther defense currently hold a goals against average of 1.71. Burke also has recorded 58 saves in 2019. The Panthers’ record is currently 4-7-2.
Western Illinois’ leading goal-scorer is Ryan Devils with five goals. Their goalkeeper Tim Trilk currently holds a goals against average of 2.23 with 66 saves. The Leathernecks’ record is 3-11.
Blake Faith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]