The Vikings went into this past Saturday’s game against Lake Forest College on the back of a two game unbeaten streak. A win at Monmouth College and a tie at Illinois College had provided some much needed confidence. More specifically, scoring twice in the last fifteen minutes against Illinois to come back from a 0-2 deficit appeared to have shown the players what they were really capable off. Keeper and MWC Defensive Player of the Week Chris Perry said “I felt the team come together as a team during that game. The weather was awful, we were down 2-0 after the first half but we stuck it out, pulled together, and got a result. It was definitely a turning point for us.”
This new found self-belief then resulted in Lawrence grinding out a 1-0 win at Monmouth despite being out-shot 23 to 9. This was a team playing with purpose; a team playing to win.
Saturday was Lake Forest’s turn to face this seemingly rejuvenated Viking’s side. The big question was whether the Vikings would rise to the occasion.
The answer was an emphatic “yes!” The Vikings began the game full of confidence and this was reflected in the quality of their play. Nick Paskert scored his second goal in three games ten minutes before half-time to give the Vikings the lead. However two minutes into the second half the nature of the game changed when Lake Forest was awarded a debatable penalty. Chad Mickschl stepped up to take the spot kick and sent Perry the wrong way, slotting the ball into the bottom left corner.
“At this stage I thought we were in trouble” said Perry. “I felt the game slipping away.”
Perry, it turned out, had gotten it very wrong. The Vikings pulled themselves together and Dave Balsewicz got himself on the score sheet with his second goal in three games. A foul on the edge of the 18-yard box gave the Vikings a free kick and when the ball was rolled to Balsewicz, he struck a right-footed shot into the top left corner for the game winner. The Vikings even had a late penalty denied them when Adam Miner was taken down inside the box, but the referee turned down the appeal. In the end though, it didn’t matter.
Having struggled all season to score goals (eight goals in their first eleven games), the Vikings have now scored five in their last three games. When asked about the transformation, Balsewicz responded: “We are starting to gel as a team. Everybody is starting to mature. Everybody is more aware of where his teammates are on the pitch and that is reflected in our scoring more goals.”
The soccer team still has a slim chance of making the MWC Playoffs this year. They need to beat Beloit next week and hope that Monmouth and St. Norbert both lose. What is more important is that the team is finally playing like a team, and that bodes very well for next year.