October 08, 2013
Knox College's men's soccer team opened its season Aug. 31 with a 6-0 loss to DePauw University at Jorge Prats Field.
The Prairie Fire haven't lost since.
Knox won its 11th consecutive game -- a 2-1 overtime victory over Midwest Conference foe Grinnell College -- Saturday, which set the school record for wins in a season. The previous record for wins in a season was 10 and was held by both the 1987 and 1988 teams.
Fire coach Matt Edwards never envisioned his team would rack up so many wins this season. Knox had a 6-9-2 overall mark and went 2-6-2 in MWC play last season -- his first at the helm.
Of course, he's not complaining.
"To be honest with you, I would have taken seven wins straight away, because that's improvement. To get 11 wins is obviously great," Edwards said. "There is a little bit of smoke and mirrors with this, because some of the teams haven't been really as competitive as we'd hoped. We scheduled teams that are in similar situations as us. We improved. Other teams did not. All credit has to go to the guys.
"We weren't really ready for DePauw to be honest with you. We didn't have Sean Dockrell, who has been our starting goalkeeper ever since. Max Gatyas was unavailable. We just wrote that game off and we've taken it a game at a time," he added. "We've tried to have a great team shape, tried to defend really well, play with a really high pressure and a good mentality and counter attack really well. We've done that. We've executed really well in the games so far. We've improved on set pieces, which has been massive for us, too. We haven't given up as many goals on set pieces -- corners, free kicks, long throws."
Dockrell, a sophomore transfer, has a school record eight shutouts this season. He leads the MWC and sits at No. 23 in NCAA Division III in goals against average (0.44).
Gatyas, a senior, leads the Fire in assists (12) and has scored five goals.
Charlie Harned, a sophomore, leads the Fire in shots (52), is second on the team in points (25) and assists (11). Harned, who has scored seven goals, is the MWC leader in shots.
Nathaniel Logie, a sophomore, leads Knox in points (32), goals (14) and game winning goals (five) and his average of 1.20 goals per game puts him at No. 11 in Division III. He sits at No. 1 in the MWC in points, goals, game winning goals and points per game.
The Fire lead the MWC in shots (266), points (142), goals (51), assists (39), shutouts (eight) and corners (103). Knox has scored 51 goals so far this season, which puts them at No. 2 in Division III. The College of St. Scholastica, located in Duluth, Minnesota, has scored 55 goals. The Fire are averaging 4.19 goals and 22.2 shots per game, while their opponents are averaging 0.90 goals scored and 6.2 shots per game.
"Offensively, we've scored a ton of goals," Edwards said. "Nathaniel and Charlie deserve a ton of credit. They've been putting the ball in the back of the net pretty well. Max is our captain and has done a great job. We are going to really struggle when he leaves.
"Everybody got a year wiser, which helped. We started a lot of freshmen last year and they are now sophomores, have stepped up and understand what it means to be in a conference as competitive as ours and the freshmen have played really well," he added. "The leadership has been phenomenal from the top down. Our seniors have been fantastic. Obviously, the freshmen and the sophomores didn't experience what it was like before I got here. Going into games expecting to win is totally new for the juniors and seniors here."
The Fire (11-1, 4-0) were picked to finish ninth in the MWC in the preseason coaches' poll and are currently tied for the MWC lead with Lake Forest.
The Foresters (6-5, 4-0) captured the MWC Championship last season and were picked to repeat as the champions in the preseason poll.
Knox has six games remaining in the regular season, all MWC contests with only one at Jorge Prats Field, and may do something that hasn't been done by a Knox team since 1988 -- go undefeated in conference play.
Carroll is the last MWC school to go undefeated in conference play and did so two straight years -- 2008 and 2009. The MWC was broken up into two divisions -- North and South -- up until the 1997 season. Knox went 5-0 in the North in '88.
Edwards isn't focused on how things will shake up in the conference once the regular season ends or wondering how many wins Knox will garner this season. He's concentrating on the Fire's next game -- 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Illinois College.
"We are really taking one game at a time. I know that is really cliche," Edwards said. "We have had four home games to start conference play. We have to go on the road to IC. We have to go on the road to St. Norbert, which are notoriously two hard places to go. Then, we have Lake Forest here on homecoming. We then go to Carroll. In my opinion, Carroll and Lake Forest are the top two.
"Then, we play Beloit away and then we go away to Monmouth for the last game of the year, so the tail end of our season is extremely challenging," he added. "We will be away from home and all the things that have gone in our favor so far we have to work a little bit harder to get the results. We are going to try to just win as many games as we can and see where things shake up."