St. Peter, Minn. – Sticking to the late-October script, the Gustavus Adolphus men’s soccer team kicked off November with a 2-0 win over Hamline University on Saturday afternoon at the Gustie Soccer Field. Thanks to goals by Ryan Tollefsrud (Jr., Spearfish, S.D.) and Eli Bjerk (So.,Stillwater, Minn.) in the second half, the Gusties earned the shutout win in the regular season finale and extended its winning-streak to eight games.
Gustavus improves to 13-2-1 overall and 10-0-0 in the MIAC, while Hamline concludes its season 6-10-1 overall and 2-7-1 in the MIAC.
“Although we played a good game against a well coached and committed Hamline side, the game was really all about the result,” said Head Coach Mike Middleton after the match. “To achieve a 10-0-0 record is just stunning and the lads deserve all the credit and accolades that come their way.”
In the history of MIAC men’s soccer, only four teams prior to this season’s Gusties have won the conference title with an unblemished and perfect record. Gustavus was the first program to do so after going 10-0-0 on the way to the 1970 MIAC Championship. Saint John’s won the league with a record of 9-0-0 in 1986, while Macalester has gone unbeaten twice in 1990 and 2001 with 10-0-0 records.
“The work-rate was something to behold from the lads,” Middleton stated. “Sean Sendelbach and David Lilly covered nearly ever blade of grass on the field. The drive, desire, and strength this group has consistently displayed is simply astounding. They are absolutely terrific and deserve all the praise in the world.”
After an uneventful opening half that saw Gustavus outshoot the Pipers 7-to-3, the Gusties broke the scoreless tie at the 59:55 mark when Mark Tollefsrud scored his sixth goal of the season off a Jonathan Balthazar (Fr., Evanston, Ill.) assist.
“We lost stalwart Eric Schneider to a lower body injury early in the game. We are still waiting for the x-rays and are keeping our fingers crossed that it’s only a painful knock,” said Middleton. “Both Eric and Jason Schwab will be sadly missed, but Ryan Tollefsrud is retuning to fitness and seems stronger every game. He scored a lovely goal off an excellent Jonathan Balthazar assist. ‘Tolley’ took it very calmly after only a minute earlier having a thunderous drive saved by the Hamline ‘keeper.”
Over 20 minutes passed before Gustavus scored an insurance goal at the 80:28 mark. David Lilly (Jr., Maple Grove, Minn.) connected with Eli Bjerk (So., Stillwater, Minn.) for what was his second goal of the season. Lilly now has a team-best seven assists on the year.
Of Gustavus’s 20 goals scored over their eight-match winning-streak, 15 have come in the second half.
“With great support from Zach Brown, Charlie Adams, and Konnor Tranoris, the lads going forward were awesome.,” commented Middleton about the play of his strikers. “What a great goal to finish the game from Eli Bjerk. He is technically top class and a veritable virtuoso on the ball. The balance, poise and majesty – he’s the Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley, of soccer.”
Middleton was also pleased with the play of his back line, which posted its fourth shutout in five matches. “The central defensive pairing of senior Zach Schmith and Elliott Emerson was indomitable today. They have stood tall all year and today was another example of that.”
Brett Ylonen (Jr., Lake Elmo, Minn.) earned his seventh complete-match shutout of the season and improved to 13-2-1 with the victory. Ylonen has now played 439:30 consecutive minutes in net without allowing a goal. His goals against average dropped to 0.40 while his save percentage went up to .898 after making three saves today agains the Pipers.
“A 100-percent 10-0-0 record is just unbelievable in this day and age,” added Middleton. “This is a once in a lifetime achievement for the lads and one they will recount with great pride hopefully to their grandchildren. It’s a day for all of them to be very proud – what a wonderful accomplishment.”
The MIAC Champion Gusties will now enter the 2013 MIAC Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with home field advantage throughout. The Gusties will take on Saint John’s in the semifinals, as the Johnnies used a decisive 5-0 road win at Concordia to close the season and earn a trip to the postseason. Saint John’s finished the regular season with an 8-6-3 overall record and a 6-2-2 conference record and 20 MIAC points. Gustavus and Saint John’s will square off on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Gustie Soccer Field in St. Peter. The time of the match is to be determined.
It was also Senior Day at the Gustie Soccer field as Gustavus seniors Casey Gilbert (Marshfield, Wis.), Zach Schmith (Sioux Falls, S.D), and Sean Sendelbach (Sioux Falls, S.D.) were honored for their commitment to the men’s soccer program for the past four years. During the tenure of this year’s seniors, Gustavus has won two MIAC Championships and has compiled a record of 52-11-10 overall and 29-4-7 in the MIAC. This group of seniors holds an overall winning percentage of .781 over their four-year careers.