Men’s soccer team loses on Senior Day


Han Byer

Chad Hamler (13), fights for possession of the ball vs. Denver University at Lakeside Field. The Panthers lost 3-0 vs. the Pioneers.

Nick Bays, Men's Soccer Reporter

In what was a physical game that saw eight yellow cards between the two teams, Eastern men’s soccer team lost on Saturday afternoon at home against the Denver Pioneers 3-0 on senior day.

Eastern honored six seniors before kickoff who will be leaving the program after this season. 

The first half began with both teams trading possession and defensive challenges back and forth with Denver controlling much of the possession. They would send in 16 shots in the first half alone including a goal late in the first half from Holger Olsson that snuck past Panther goalkeeper Chad Smith in the 41st minute. 

Both teams were not afraid to get physical. The yellow cards started early with Eastern defender William Bruce picking up the first of the Panthers’ five total on the afternoon. With the game only nine minutes in, players from both teams got in each other’s’ faces and words were exchanged before one of the referees de-escalated the situation.  

“We’re working really hard, so emotions go,” said Eastern head coach Josh Oakley. “Denver are fighting for a championship. We’re fighting to play our very best stuff at the end of the season, we’re at home for senior day.” 

Early in the second half, Denver kept up the offensive pressure scoring two goals in the span of six minutes. Olsson made it a brace on the day with his second goal coming off a headed ball in the 49th minute and Lukas Fisher joined in the scoring shortly after in the 55th minute. 

“Tempers got fairing in the second half too, especially when we let a goal in to make it 2-0,” said Oakley. “We got frustrated, which any team is going to do. We have got to learn to manage those emotions a little bit better.”  

Tension seemed to cool down later in the second half when one of the officials went to speak with both Oakley and Denver head coach Jamie Franks. By this point, seven of the game’s eight yellow cards had already been delivered with five to Eastern and two to Denver. 

After the discussion, Oakley sent in a multitude of substitutions to try to help ease some of the frustration on the field. 

“We subbed I think five players at that point,” said Oakley. “We got to bring out some young players. I told them, ‘Look, this is going to be you in a few years, so I want you to show your quality and I want you to focus on playing, not talking.’” 

“It can be difficult, especially against teams like Denver,” said Eastern senior midfielder Munir Sherali. “They’re a top 25 team. We try our best to stay composed by communicating with each other. That’s one of our biggest ways to cool our guys off and stay disciplined.”  

The Panthers would create a few key opportunities throughout the match with three shots on target including an impressive sequence by junior forward Sam Eccles in the 15th minute who stole the ball deep in Denver territory off a misplaced pass by the keeper and sent a shot in towards the bottom-right corner. The shot, however, rolled right of the post..  

Sam Eccles (9), a forward, takes the ball down field at Lakeside Field vs. Denver University. The Panthers lost 3-0 to the Pioneers Saturday afternoon. (Han Byer)


Eastern’s attack was unable to match the offensive output of Denver with the Panthers only recoding four shots on the day, all of those coming in the first half. The Pioneers would end up with 25 shots total including 12 on target. 

Sherali said that the final pass for Eastern when they were trying to create goal scoring chances was the reason they were unable to capitalize on offensive opportunities. 

“We did a good job building up from the back line all the way to the final third,” said Sherali. “It was just a lack of composure towards the final third.” 

Sherali was one of six seniors honored before the game. The other seniors included Chad Hamler, Mac VanOudt, Delphy Sabu, Nikola Salopek, and Maxwell Allen. Each walked out with some of their loved ones and framed jerseys. 

“A lot of guys are emotional right now, obviously,” said Sherali. “This was our last home game. We really left it all on the field today. Unlucky with the result, but I’m proud of how the guys finished the game.” 

After the final whistle, the players organized in front of the home crowd and the seniors received one last round of cheers and applause from the Panther fans at Lakeside Field. 

With the loss, Eastern drops to 1-11-3 on the season with Denver improving to 9-2-5. With the victory, Denver firmly plant themselves in second place in the Summit League men’s soccer standings with a conference record of 4-0-2 while Eastern remain at the bottom of the Summit League standings at 0-6-1. 

“We’re looking forward to finishing the season next weekend,” said Sherali. 

“It’s the last game of the year,” said Oakley. “We want to go out on a good note.” 

The Panthers’ final game of the season is Saturday, Nov. 5th where they take on Omaha on the road at 1 p.m.

Nick Bays can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]