Seniors carry IWU men’s team to win

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Pat Mollo, Staff Writer

 

The senior Titans for the Illinois Wesleyan University men’s soccer team are as close-knit as it gets here on campus.

The 11 seniors have banded together as brothers in their time here at IWU.  Of the 11 seniors, 10 of them have been teammates since day one as first-years.

This senior class has been linked by their unified desire to win the conference tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“Since longer than I can remember it’s been our goal to win the conference tournament.  Its what we talk about every day and what we practice so hard for day in and day out,” said senior Eric Gilbert, a senior leader for the Titans.

After transferring from Loras College, Gilbert has been a vital component of the Titan team. His clever dribbling helps him evade oncoming defenders, and his left boot is dangerous when he gets open.

Other than their desire to win, the seniors also have in common that their chemistry as a unit is second to none.

“The team chemistry this year is unmatched to previous years.  I think it is a big reason for our success so far this season,” Drake Leary said.

After adjusting to a new coach and system under Kyle Schauls, the team has embraced a new attitude, one that is infectious and encouraging. The team holds itself to a high standard, on the field and all the way down to the locker room, where the floor is spotless.

Seniors Drake Leary and Ross Knezovich are the co-captains for the Titan footballers.  In four years, Leary has played in 47 games in the green and white while Knezovich has played in 34.

Knezovich and Leary are held to high standard as captains, but their workload is distributed among the other senior leaders.  Every player does his part and it has been beneficial for the team.

“The energy and morale is outstanding.  Every guy on the team is focused on what we want to achieve as a program.”  Leary said.  “The best part of leading such a large senior class is having other guys join in leading.”

The last time that men’s soccer has been in the conference tournament was in 2013.  That game resulted in big loss to Wheaton College.  If the Titans can reach the conference championship, momentum is on their side as they enter the rest of their conference season.

As the season has progressed, the Titans have been heating up as a unit.  The team has won the last two games while outscoring their opponents 6-1.  Leary has scored once in each of those contests.  Their offense is led by seniors Leary, Carlo Fava, Jimmy Connolly and Mitch Billimack.

On Saturday at 6:00 p.m., the Titans will take on Carthage in their second conference game this season at Neis Field in Bloomington.