Men’s soccer rides hot streak into conference play

Nick Gainey

After a tough 1-6 season-opening loss at Simpson, the beginning of the Augustana men’s soccer team’s season was a slow one. However, the Vikings have stormed back by winning four of their last five matches, while posting shutouts in all four victories. 

Augustana responded to its early setback by dominating Rockford 3-0 on Sept. 4. First-year Jarrett Baumgartner accounted for all three Viking goals. A few days later, Augustana traveled to Coe and picked up their first road win of the season: a 2-0 decision over the Kohawks. The Vikings then suffered a road loss against Marian in a 0-3 match. 

Augustana returned to Thorson-Lucken Field to face Knox on Sept. 18. After three scoreless periods, senior Nick Dispensa buried the Prairie Fire with a goal in the second overtime period to give the Vikings a 1-0 victory. 

“It felt great to hit a shot like that with four minutes left in double overtime,” Dispensa said. “As captain of the team, I felt like I had to be the guy that stepped up in that moment.” 

Both the team and campus community were excited to open conference play. The men and women were expected to play a doubleheader at Thorson-Lucken Field, and a student-led tailgate was planned to celebrate. However, the plans were slightly derailed when the men’s game against Carroll was postponed due to travel arrangement issues. 

Instead, the Viking men will travel to Wheaton on Sept. 29 to open their conference slate. With a boost of confidence from their recent successes, they expect to make some noise in the CCIW. 

“The recent non-conference wins affect the team going into conference play by not only boosting morale, but continuing to grow as a team as a whole,” junior Ryan Bobrowski said. “Not only are we building team chemistry, we are growing stronger and better as a team.” 

Despite their successes, Augustana is still rebuilding. Many underclassmen are called upon to play key roles that have been left open by recent graduates. The team is led in goals by first year Baumgartner. 

“We have a lot of new guys on the team this year, so I feel like it took a game together to get used to each other’s play style,” Dispensa said. “A lot of our younger core were able to adjust to the collegiate level very fast, and this has greatly helped us improve as an overall squad.”

When asked about the team’s goals for the season, junior Eirik Andersen had a clear and simple answer. 

“Top four in conference. That’s what we need for playoffs,” Andersen said. 

Augustana opens conference play with a trip to Wheaton, then returns to Thorson-Lucken Field for a two game homestand against Millikin and North Central. 

“I’d have to say my goal is for us to start off 2-0 in conference. Wheaton and Millikin are both teams we can play with and beat,” Dispensa said. “Starting off strong in conference is so important to building momentum, and ultimately competing with any team we get on the field with.”