Eric Gilbert, Staff Writer
The Illinois Wesleyan Titans men’s soccer team travelled to Dubuque, Iowa for their 2015 season opener.
Second year head coach Kyle Schauls, looking for his first opening day victory, would have to wait a few more days as the Dubuque University Spartans edged out the Titans 2-1 in a hard fought contest.
The Spartans controlled the game in the first half, winning the majority of 50-50 balls and dominating play on the wings. There certainly needed to be a change of mentality in the second half if the Titans wanted to walk out of Dubuque victorious and the players appeared to recognize this.
“We were a bit off in the first half as a team. Our focus wasn’t necessarily there and we were getting out-hustled. We realized this and made adjustments accordingly for the second half,” said senior captain Drake Leary.
The Titans came out in the second half with a more offensive mindset, putting the Spartan defense under immediate pressure. It took less than three minutes for the Titans to get on the board when junior Dino Karas made a blistering run down the left wing and sent in a beautiful cross to senior Blake Beehler who put it in the back of the net for his first collegiate goal.
“I had a few runners in the box and I picked out Blake who was unmarked at the back corner. It was a great finish and a great first goal on the year,” said Karas.
Unfortunately, the 1-0 lead wouldn’t last long. The Spartans equalized the game off of a corner kick in the 52nd minute. Less than eight minutes later, senior defender Billy Belmonte beat a Titan defender down the left wing and sent a cross in for senior Gonzalo Hernandez who made no mistake in putting it away for his first goal on the year.
Despite a resilient fight from an experienced Titan side, the Spartans would go on to win 2-1. Dubuque went to 1-0 on the season will the Titans fell to 0-1. While it’s never ideal to lose a season opener, there are plenty of positives to take away for the Titans.
The team’s 11 seniors account for a lot of the team’s experience and leadership, and second year Coach Schauls will definitely lean on them as the Titans get their season started.
“It was a tough game to lose but I thought we played well and showed a lot of promise. We need to continue to create opportunities and stay focused defensively and we will have a lot of success this year,” said senior Jimmy Connolly.
The Titans resume play this weekend as they head to Holland, Michigan to participate in the Bergsma Memorial Tournament. They will play Marian University on Friday, Sept. 4 at 4:00 p.m. ET and Hope College on Saturday Sept. 5 at 7:00 p.m. ET.