Men enter NCAA regionals on hot streak

By Matt Day

Macalester’s win over Carleton on Saturday extended the team’s season by one game. If history repeats itself, they are due for at least one more.The Scots face Grinnell tomorrow in an NCAA Regional matchup, having already beaten the Pioneers 3-2 Sept. 26. But Macalester players and coaches say they aren’t taking them for granted as they prepare for a rematch in Dubuque, Iowa.

“The best thing about us is we’re not inclined to overlook anybody or overestimate an opponent,” coach Ian Barker said.

The teams that will meet Saturday have changed since Stephen Murphy-Logue ’11 scored two goals to put away the Pioneers in Grinnell. Both teams have rebounded from inconsistent first halves to win their conference tournaments.

“Our team has improved greatly since we played Macalester mid-season,” Grinnell captain JP Prouty said. “Seeing as we’re both coming off big wins in our respective conference championships, it looks like it should be a great game.”

Prouty, a defender, is the team’s third leading scorer with 5 goals.

“Our season speaks for itself,” he said. “We can be dangerous against any team.”

Barker said he expects Grinnell to match the physical, attacking style of play they used during the first meeting.

“They’re athletic,” Barker said. “You have to be awake defensively.”

Macalester’s defense has been a strength down the stretch, led by captain Nate Juergens ’11, a bruising defender who has refined his play this year on the way to becoming what Barker calls one of the best defenders in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“I’ve calmed down a little bit,” Juergens said of his development since earning a starting spot midway through his freshman year. “I’m the elder now on the ‘D,’ I find myself not doing as much as maybe I used to try to do. I’ve learned it’s about positioning as much as athleticism.

“Our defense has been a good base for the team.”

Juergens is joined in the center of defense by Andrew Lund ’12, who saw time last year as a freshman and came back in August as a vocal leader.

“I came to the realization that I can talk to Andrew, and he’ll tell everyone else,” goalkeeper Matt Weyer ’12 said.

With a win Saturday night, Macalester would likely set up a rematch against another opponent from earlier this season: the No. 8 Loras Duhawks, who play Webster (Mo.) on Saturday.

Loras, which has spent much of the year ranked in the top 10, handled Macalester 4-0 on Sept. 13. The Duhawks have scored almost 3 goals per game, and conceeded only 14 total on the year.

“We can upset a higher ranked opponent,” Barker said. “I have no concerns as a coach about the approach to an opponent.”

Barker’s players agree, putting the outcome of this weekend’s game on their shoulders.

“We need to play our style,” Lund said. “I’m confident that we can play with any team in the country, it’s a matter of focusing.”

The team’s focus has got them farther than any since 2005, when the Scots won an NCAA first-round game.

“I can tell that nobody has been satisfied,” Weyer said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a time where we agree that we’re happy, that it’s OK to lose today.