The Lawrence University men’s soccer team continued to flatter and deceive over the past weekend. On Saturday, Oct. 5, the team deftly won 3-1 away at Knox, only to turn around and concede three second-half goals in a 4-1 defeat at Grinnell the following day. After a scoreless first half against Knox, Jesse Belcher opened the scoring for the Vikings in the 64th minute on an assist from Brian Payne. He then added a second goal nine minutes later.
Knox managed to pull a goal back in the 77th minute, courtesy of Tom Quirk, but Adam Minor sealed the win with nine minutes remaining with his third goal of the season.
Against Grinnell, Lawrence found itself 1-0 down early but fought back to equalize before half time. The second half then turned out to be a disaster for the Vikings, with the Pioneers scoring three unanswered goals.
“We tend to lose our focus,” said midfielder Payne. “For some reason we are unable to maintain the same level of intensity for all our games.”
The Vikings now own a 2-6-1 record overall and a 2-2 record in conference.
In the process of scoring four goals over the weekend the team almost equaled its goal tally from its first seven games. The team has now scored a total of nine goals for the season in nine games.
During the first few games of the season it appeared the Viking offense might benefit from the new 3-5-2 system, a system introduced in an attempt to accommodate the glut of midfield players in the squad.
An early 3-0 win over Lake Forest raised expectations that the team may have left its scoring problems from last year behind, but after failing to score in their last three games prior to the weekend, the Vikings were averaging a meager 0.7 goals a game. They now average a goal a game.
In addition to the new system, the team also had to make another significant adjustment. For the first time in four years the Men’s Soccer team began their season without their team leader from last year, Tom Conti.
Conti was the key to the Lawrence defense last season when the Vikings finished third in the Midwest Conference, allowing just 1.17 goals per game.
Conti was also named to the All-Central Region team and was one of just six players from the Midwest Conference to be so honored. According to Payne, “Losing Conti is a huge blow to the team.”
The performance of the team at the back to this point appears to support Payne’s statement. Unless the Vikings can shore up the defense, which is cracking without Conti, and begin to score goals on a regular basis, the season could be over sooner rather than later.
The good news is that the team’s next conference game is at Ripon, a beatable opponent. The Vikings’ next non-conference game is against Wisconsin Lutheran on Oct. 20. It is a game Lawrence should win and if they do it might prove to be the catalyst that spurs the Vikings to a winning season.