PELLA—Facing the highest-rated team in the region in the American Rivers Conference tournament semifinals, the Central College men’s soccer team was eliminated in a 3-0 loss against Luther College.
The conference regular season champions, Central (14-3-2) hosted the No. 5 seed Luther (15-4-1). Earlier Wednesday, the Norse were placed atop the NCAA Division III North Region poll. They did, however, finish fifth in the league after losing three conference matches.
“It’s a very frustrating result because I actually thought for large portions of the game we were the better team by quite a stretch today,” coach Garry Laidlaw said.
Luther scored four minutes into the game and added a second goal in the 32nd minute. They added a late goal in the final minute to make it 3-0.
“Unfortunately, we gave up a couple of soft goals to fall behind and didn’t take advantage of the wind in the first half,” Laidlaw said.
After the two early goals, goalkeeper Andrew Mathys (senior, Elburn, Ill., Kaneland HS) recorded four saves.
Midfielder Zach Worster (sophomore, Saint Peters, Mo., Saint Dominic HS) had two of the team’s shot six attempts, including one on frame. Forward Ian Meentemeyer (senior, Hartsburg, Mo., Southern Boone County HS) and midfielder Tony Cervelli (sophomore, Plainfield, Ill., South HS) also had shots on frame.
With a loss, Central enters an uncertain future for the next few days. Their position in the regional rankings (No. 2) typically merits an at-large berth in the NCAA Division III Championships but that decision won’t be made officially until Monday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. during the tournament’s selection show.
“We feel we have a great resume and a body of work that merits serious consideration,” Laidlaw said. “Our record against the best teams in this region is excellent. Our strength of schedule is there and we feel like we have checked all the boxes that we are asked to check when it comes to scheduling opponents. Ultimately, we respect the process. We will be hopeful and optimistic that we’ll get a chance. We’ll keep practicing and preparing and hoping for the best.”