Men’s soccer draws with Illinois Wesleyan

Nick Gainey

The Augustana men’s soccer team continued their shortened spring season on a cold night at Thorson-Lucken Field on April 14. The Vikings took on the tough, physical Illinois Wesleyan team, playing to a 1-1 draw.
“Every CCIW team has their specific qualities that we look at before prepping for a game,” junior midfielder Nick Dispensa said. “For Wesleyan, they have physical guys that want to play direct as much as possible. Wesleyan are also a group of guys that want to beat you mentally with their energy.”
The teams battled back and forth for a little over 15 minutes before Illinois Wesleyan was able to score the first goal of the game. But the Vikings wouldn’t trail for long, when senior captain Salah Aghlaf pushed the ball into the back of the net on his second attempt after a deflected header.
“The right way to describe the goal is that I was glad to finish a team effort,” Aghlaf said. “The goal was scored based on a team effort and based on many drills that we ran in practice, and so we just applied what we have been training and preparing for on a daily basis.”
The Titans had a chance to escape Rock Island with a win when they were awarded a free kick with just over a minute to go. But freshman goalkeeper Frankie Baio deflected the kick away, and the game ended in a draw.
“I was happy with my performance, however as goalkeepers we are always looking to improve and learn from our mistakes,” Baio said. “There is a lot of pressure on goalkeepers with little to no margin of error which made me the most proud of my last save on the free kick.”
No matter the result of each match, the Vikings are simply happy to be playing games.
“Going into this season, we had to deal with the possibilities of being quarantined or have our season canceled because of COVID-19, but I’m actually more than glad with how the team as a whole dealt with the situation and followed the public health instructions from local health authorities and our athletic department,” Aghlaf said. “Therefore, we had a long fall season with no games scheduled as well as our regular season this spring. Aside from COVID-19, the team has been working hard to adapt to such a strange year and make sure to stay fit and ready for our season.”
But that doesn’t mean that Augustana isn’t looking for success. After a few lackluster seasons, the Vikings want more.
“Our group of guys committed their full self to the program and did a fantastic job staying dedicated to our ultimate goal of winning games. We have a hungry group of guys that are willing to put in full effort for each other, for this program, and for Augustana College,” Dispensa said. “One of our main goals for the shortened season was to get our younger guys some experience so that we can continue our success into the future. With the cancellation of the CCIW playoffs this year, we wanted to get the younger guys accustomed to the level that they will see next year.”