PELLA — In its season opener, the Central College men’s soccer team debuted five new freshmen in its starting lineup and battled St. Olaf College (Minn.) to the end in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night.
After giving up two goals in the first 25 minutes, Central (0-1-0) clamped down defensively and held the Oles (1-0-0) off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
“St. Olaf is a team that can definitely compete in the top end of its league this year,” coach Garry Laidlaw said. “They were well organized and well coached.”
Central started to rally in the 50th minute when Jordan Groshek (freshman, forward, Onalaska, Wis.) drew a penalty kick on a foul in the box and Brant Mueller (senior, forward, Bettendorf) buried the penalty attempt.
“Jordan made a great run,” Laidlaw said. “He peeled off his run into the box and I think the defender just got on the wrong side of him.”
Central had four shots in the final 10 minutes, including a Nathan Kuhlman (sophomore, midfielder, Lee’s Summit, Mo., North HS) header that was saved in the 81st minute. Three other attempts by the Dutch went just wide.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with our performance in the second half. We really took the game to them and had a couple of good chances in the dying seconds.”
In addition to Groshek, Central started newcomers Jack Cannon (defender, Geneva, Ill.), Cole Manuel (midfielder, Erie, Colo.), Tim Shicky (defender, Peoria, Ariz., Shattuck-St Mary’s) and Lucas Bartachek (defender, Waukee).
“We’re not focused on the age of our guys,” Laidlaw said. “If they’re good enough to be in the game, they’re in the game.”
John Foster (sophomore, Lee’s Summit, Mo., North HS) took the loss in goal while making four saves.
The Dutch host Grinnell College on Saturday at 2 p.m.