The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

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The Panthers prepare for second round of the OVC tournament

Freshman Jake McConnery (right) was one of the contributors to Eastern fifth shutout of the season on Sunday, Nov. 5. (File)

Eastern men’s soccer will be playing in the second round of a conference tournament for the first time since 2007.

“Preseason polls, everyone’s saying, ‘Oh we’re not supposed to be here, we’re not supposed to do this,’” junior defender William Bruce said. “In the locker room everyone knew like, ‘Alright this is our plan. This is how we’re going to execute it throughout the year.’”

The Panthers, who are a six seed, will play the second-seeded Incarnate Word Cardinals on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Edwardsville, Illinois. The last time these two teams played Eastern was up 2-1 with 12 minutes left in the game. They then allowed three straight unanswered goals to lose 4-2.

“I think we can be a lot better than we were when we traveled to Texas and played them,” Head Coach Josh Oakley said. “We were 2-1 up, perhaps a little bit unfairly 2-1 up. They were the better team through most of the game, I’ll admit that. That’s why I think we can actually be better on the day and hopefully better the result.

Not including a game against SIUE where they rested their starters, the Panthers have gone 3-0-2 in their last five games. That is there best five-game stretch since 2007 when they went 4-0-1 to start the season.

“I think we’re flying right now,” freshman defender Jake McConnery said. “I think everything’s starting to click at the right time, and I’m very confident that we’re going to get the result we want on Wednesday.”

Eastern’s last game was one of the best performances of junior goalkeeper Chad Smith’s career. He had nine saves, the second highest in his career, and saved two shots when the game went to penalties. It was also his fifth shutout of the season.

“I mean, it’s not just my doing either,” Smith said. “It’s the back four, midfielders, everyone was really making it easy for me and giving me a chance to do that. I think that’s the biggest step is being organized, being set, ready to go. They let me make the saves I have to, and they block the ones that they need to.”

The Cardinals are coming into this game off of an extended break because the one and two seeds did not play on Sunday.

“We had a good week of preparation for the last game, it was awesome. That’s the benefit of being a one or two seed, they’ve had ten days now to prepare. More or less, you’re getting ready though and I would venture a guess that not a lot of people saw coming. Maybe they didn’t prep for us specifically, but they’ve had some time and now we’re on very, very short rest and very intense preparation for the next 36 hours or so.”

Luther Yoder can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Luther Yoder, Assistant Sports Editor
Luther Yoder is a sophomore journalism major. This is his first year at The News.

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