DUBUQUE, IA - The Emmaus men's soccer team returned to action on Thursday afternoon as they hosted the Lions of Finlandia University (Hancock, MI). The meeting was the first in history between the two teams. Finlandia, an NCAA Division III school, came into the match looking for their second win of the season after having played 4 of their previous 5 opponents to within a single goal. Emmaus was coming off of their first ever victory over conference rival Manhattan Christian.
The game kicked off with Emmaus settling in early, finding feet, and patiently working the ball around. The stingy Lions defense held firm for the first 20 minutes of the game, preventing Emmaus from creating any strong scoring chances. The Eagle defense, for their part, limited the Lion offense to just a few long range efforts.
The break for the Eagles finally came in the 21st minute when Carson McBain (#11) sent in a corner kick to the head of Wakilongo Ebake (#17) whose head notched the first goal of the game. Just 8 minutes later the Eagles doubled their lead when Mason McCarl (#7) worked his way through the Lion defense and saw his deflected effort fall at the feet of Ebake, who tallied his second goal.
With a two goal lead on a warm afternoon, the Eagles looked to mix in a few reserves in order to rest a few players for the second half. Just when it looked like the Eagles would carry their two goal lead into the half, freshman Zack Boomer (#13), who had subbed in for Ebake, found the edge of the Lion defense and calmly chipped a shot over the Lion keeper to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead with 21 seconds to play in the half.
To their credit, the Lions had no quit in them. Despite trailing 0-3, they adjusted their strategy and started to string some passes together. Most of the attacks were stifled by the Emmaus defense, but in the 63rd minute an unforced handball in the Emmaus box led to a Finlandia penalty. The Lion's Ozvaldo Cruz (#9) calmly stepped up to bring his team to within 2 goals.
The rest of the half saw both teams battle back and forth, with Finlandia controlling more possession than they did in the first half, but with only a few dangerous opportunities. Emmaus put together a few well-structured attacks, but the Lion defense held, resulting in a final score of 3-1 in favor of the hosts.
"Our boys dug in once again and played smart, patient soccer. The first half was solid, and once again, the good news is that we have plenty to improve on. Scott Chrysafidis, Finlandia's new head coach, is doing a great job with a new team and I have no doubt their program is going to continue to improve in the coming seasons. It is encouraging to see a coach who wants to build a program around both quality soccer and character growth. We wish them all the best!" (Coach Brown)
The win for the Eagles marked their first three game win streak since 2010 and saw them improve their overall record to 3 wins, 1 loss. They will be back in action on Saturday as they travel to Eureka, Illinois to take on the Eureka College Red Devils. The Red Devils have also recorded 3 wins and one loss, and it is sure to be a great match. Kickoff is set for 2:00 PM.