St. Peter, Minn. – Despite allowing a goal just four minutes into the 2014 season, the Gustavus Adolphus men’s soccer team was able to bounce back and rattle off three unanswered goals on its way to a 3-1 victory over Carroll University on Friday afternoon at the Gustie Soccer Field. After Jason Schwab (Jr., Stillwater, Minn.) tied the match at 1-1 in the 22nd minute, Gustavus settled in and won the possession battle from that point on. Eli Bjerk (Jr., Stillwater, Minn.) struck the eventual game-winner in the 69th minute, and Andy Bubusek (Sr., Chaska, Minn.) added an insurance goal in the 87th to bring the match to a close.
“Great result today,” said Head Coach Mike Middleton. “An excellent start to the season going up against a team voted to win its conference title in the preseason poll.”
“The lads moved the ball around very well with everyone showing for the ball,” he continued. “We kept possession in the attacking third for a periods of time, which was very pleasing. That’s not easy under physical duress, in tight spaces, and at the very start of the season.”
With the season-opening victory, Gustavus sets itself up for a chance to win the Gustavus Classic tomorrow afternoon when it faces Wartburg College at 2:00 p.m. The Gustavus Classic kicked off earlier in the day with Wartburg defeating Concordia College 2-0. Carroll will face Concordia at 12:00 p.m. before what will be the championship-determining match between Gustavus and Wartburg.
The match’s scoring began just four minutes in when Tyler Coenen beat Gustavus goalkeeper Brett Ylonen (Sr., Stillwater, Minn.) at the 4:00 mark. From that point on, Gustavus allowed the Pioneers six more shots, and Ylonen came up with a total of four saves.
Following Coenen’s goal, Gustavus turned the momentum and began to settle in. At the 21:30 mark, Jason Schwab sent a turf-burning shot into the box from just outside the top left corner of the penalty area. The shot made it through a pair of screens before eventually finding the back of the net.
“Nice to see Jason Schwab get onto the scoresheet,” commented Middleton about his junior defender’s goal. “He worked his socks off all day. He whipped a lovely ball across the box that evaded several runs from the strikers, who had taken away the goalkeepers with their movement. The ball nestled directly into the bottom corner of the net – a cross worthy of a goal.”
Middleton credits the goal to the team’s attack pressure and relentlessness, and was pleased in his squad’s collective despite being down on the scoreboard. “Although they got down early, it was encouraging to see the lads continue to play the ball around with confidence and come back to dominate possession.”
Following Schwab’s equalizer, the two teams played nearly 60 minutes of scoreless soccer before the 1-1 tie was snapped. Taking advantage of an open window from 25 yards out, Eli Bjerk beat Carroll goalkeeper Jacob Tincher high in the net for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Later at the 86:12 mark, Andy Babusek scored in similar fashion from 20 yards out off a rush up the left side of the pitch.
“What a couple of scorching goals from Eli Bjerk and Andy Babusek,” Middleton said. “Eli picked the ball up outside the box, looked up to see the ‘keeper and bent the ball around him from 25 yards – a stunning goal to grace any game.”
“Andy ran at the defense at pace, slicing through them like a knife through butter before bending a shot past the despairing ‘keeper from the edge of the box. Such positive, aggressive play from Andy – a goal to remember for a lifetime.”
Today’s goals by Schwab and Babusek were the first of their Gustavus careers.
The Gusties finished with a 16-7 shots advantage, which included a 9-3 edge in the second half. Jacob Tincher suffered the loss after allowing all three goals and making six saves.
“I’m very pleased with the strikers’ movement. They caused all types of problems and when we could get the ball to their feet and back from them in the attacking third,” added Middleton. “I have to say that David Lilly and Charlie Adams were magnificent amongst some very good performances. Elliot Emerson also looked like a Rolls Royce at the back – a top display from him.”
Gustavus will head into tomorrow’s match against Wartburg looking for redemption after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Knight’s on Sept. 24 last season at the Gustie Soccer Field.
“A tough game against Wartburg tomorrow,” concluded Middleton. “A team in the top 25 in the preseason polls and a team that went one stage further than us in the NCAA tournament last season. It’ll be a great challenge and certainly fun to watch!”