St. Paul – Determined to not succumb to the same fate as last year’s team, the Gustavus men’s soccer team took care of business on Saturday against Macalester. With a 1-0 victory over the Scots, Head Coach Mike Middleton’s club claimed a share of the 2012 MIAC Championship, Gustavus’ first conference title since 2007.
Gustavus concludes the 2012 regular season with an overall record of 14-2-1 and an MIAC mark of 8-1-1. Macalester ends its season at 4-13-1 and 2-8-0 in the MIAC.
“Very exciting game today,” said Head Coach Mike Middleton. “We just needed to win, and in truth, we did not play well in the second half. But we showed terrific character to hold on.”
Fans will recall that last year’s season-finale between Gustavus and Macalester in St. Peter also had MIAC Championship implications for the Gusties. Thanks to a game-tying goal by Macalester’s Chris Kartheiser in the 81st minute, the Scots were able to force a tie and send Gustavus on the road for the opening round of the MIAC Playoffs.
“We had to win one of the last two games last season to win the conference, but we could only tie in both,” commented Middleton. “I would have loved to see that team to win as well because they were such a fantastic and talented group. In a sense, you have to learn how to do it and much credit should also go to the players who have come through our program recently. It is they who started this process, and it was fantastic to see them supporting this year’s club at the pitch today.”
Because Carleton defeated St. Olaf in its season-finale no more than ten minutes before Gustavus’ eighth one-goal victory of the season, the Knights and Gusties share a piece of the regular season crown.
The Gusties controlled possession through the majority of the opening portion of the opening half, yet couldn’t generate any solid looks at the goal. After a pair of corner kick chances were negated in the 25th and 29th minutes, Middleton elected to make a massive lineup change for the final stage of the first frame.
With fresh legs on the field at the 37:11 mark, Gustavus got the break it needed. Following a Macalester foul, Jackson Zoellner (Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) sent a free kick into the box from 30 yards out in front of the benches. The kick sailed long and Macalester goalkeeper Jesse Yourish came out to pick the free kick out of the air. The ball bounced off the senior keeper’s arms and on the doorstep where Zach Schmith (Jr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) was Johnny-on-the-spot to tap in the game-winning goal.
The game-winner by Schmith is not only his first of the season, but it is also the first of his career. The shots equaled six a piece in the opening half, while Gustavus had seven corner kick chances while the Scots had none.
“Zach Schmith’s goal was terrific. He pounced onto the free ball like a cat and put it in the back of the net. Not a bad way to get your first collegiate goal,” Middleton said.
The back line of the Gusties shut down the Macalester attackers in the second half to preserve the one-goal win. The Scots fired six shots compared to Gustavus’ one in the final 45 minutes.
On his squad’s defensive effort, Middleton said, “Lucas Thompson was an absolute star today after an All-American performance. The defense followed his lead and had a terrific outing. They have been truly sensational down the stretch.”
A credit to a stifling defensive effort by the Black and Gold, goalkeeper Brett Ylonen (So., Lake Elmo, Minn.) was tested just twice in the match, making both saves to sure the shutout. With the complete-game shutout, Ylonen improves to 12-2-1 on the year. He will head into the post-season with a 0.51 goals against average and a .875 save percentage.
The final count saw Macalester with a 12-7 shots advantage, and Gustavus with a 7-1 edge in corner kicks.
“It was great to see such great support from the Gustavus fans today – a hearty thanks to them all. Even our athletic director was in on campus to cheer on the guys, a very kind gesture that meant a lot to the team,” concluded Middleton.
Because Carleton defeated the Gusties 3-0 in the regular season, the Knights receive the No. 1 seed in the MIAC Playoffs. Gustavus, who earns the No. 2 seed, will host a playoff game on Tuesday, Oct. 31 on the Gustie Soccer Field. Stay tuned for Gustavus’ opponent, which is yet to be determined.