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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Men’s soccer beats Augsburg, advances to semifinals

Hans Haenicke ’25 heads in the second goal. Photo courtesy of Macalester Athletics.

After a tough 2-1 loss to Carleton College, the Scot’s men’s soccer team bounced back in a big way. They gathered momentum from a 3-1 win over University of Wisconsin-Superior, then rolled through a home encounter with Hamline University for another 3-1 win. After they thumped Saint Mary’s University (Minn.) in a 4-0 rout, they needed a win on the final matchday to stay above a resurgent Gustavus Adolphus College. There, the Scots ran into a persistent Augsburg University, who forced a 2-2 draw and booked the Scots for a rematch at Macalester Stadium.

On the coldest day of the year, the Auggies came out flat, while the Scots jumped out to a dream start. On a corner in the ninth minute, the Auggies failed to clear and a wild scramble for the ball in the box ensued. An opportunity landed at the feet of Chris Frantz ’27, and he deftly sent it past the keeper to establish an early lead.

In a season where the Scots have seen games shift in favor of the opponent thanks to late goals, the early go-ahead was a mental boost. 

“That [goal] helped to solidify the mentality of ‘we’re in this game, we can totally do this,’ and to solidify the confidence for a lot of the players,” Parker Etzbach said. “Throughout the season, there have been a lot of games where [opposing] goals have come late or in moments that helped to change the trajectory later on in the game. And I think that having an early goal definitely helped to set us up in solidifying our confidence early on in the game to be able to play through.”

“I think it was definitely a huge confidence boost,” Branko Sciortino ’24 said. “Chris [Frantz] is very composed in and around the box, so all credit to him for putting the ball in the right spot. I think our team came out with a great initial aggression and I think that set the tone for the rest of the game. I think it gave us a lot of confidence going forward, and a lot of confidence within our defense, just knowing that we had the lead, and we could keep pushing.”

After the goal, the Auggies pressed forward to search for an equalizer, and the Scots were happy to absorb the pressure. 

“They were a really good team, so when you kind of go up 1-0 on a team, it just happens to be that they have to press and they have to attack more,” Hans Haenicke ’25 said. “It’s just the time of the season where you’re just going to play good teams, and they’re going to have the upper hand at times. But you also have to remember that you’re a good team as well and you’re gonna have the opportunity to beat them.”

The Auggies applied the pressure and held the run of play, but couldn’t even register a shot on goal as the Scots’ defense held firm. The only moment of any danger in the first half fizzled immediately as Augsburg’s Mizael Harris chased a ball into the box and went over on contact with the defender, only to be awarded with a yellow card for simulation. 

The Scots also had some dangerous opportunities in that stretch. On one occasion, Hans Haenicke ’25 ranged back to poach the ball from an Auggie, then sent an overlapping Grant Luce ’25 forward with a through ball into space. Luce made it to the box and dumped it off to Kasdan Blattman ’27 who was arriving quickly and made a first-time effort that just rattled the crossbar.

As the second half opened, the Auggies’ hold on possession continued, but so did the Scots’ defensive resolve. Harris almost got the Auggies level in the 53rd minute with a low effort from outside the box that traveled through a crowd towards the goal, but Sam Price ’25 made a kick save on the tricky shot, keeping the shutout intact.

In the 57th minute, the Scots had another corner kick opportunity. Elijah Edelman ’27 swung in a lovely ball, and Haenicke rose highest and doubled the lead with an authoritative header.

Also in the second half, the Scots made a key tactical shift on defense to solidify the advantage. 

“Towards the end of the game, we made a really important switch to a four back for the last 30 minutes, and I think that really helped to solidify our defensive dominance over them and to make sure that we had the numbers to be able to counteract their three up front,” Etzbach said. “Our initial game plan was to pull one of the wingers back and sit him kind of like a wing back. We started with the three back plus pulling one of the wingers back to hold the four, but having them step out in possession. I think that switching to a direct four-back for the last part of the second half also helped to solidify that shape and to keep that structure.”

“We noticed their interchange with having three players [up top], we didn’t want to match up man-to-man, we wanted plus one in the back,” Sciortino said. “That was super important to us, and we think that it gave us a bit of an edge defensively, just so they couldn’t overload one side. And if they did overload one side, we had the ability to bring some guys back and help out.”

Thanks to the tactical move shoring up the defense, the wheels completely came off for the Auggies. From the 60th minute onwards, the opponent only registered two shots, and neither with any particular threat, as the Scots opened their playoff campaign with a convincing 2-0 win at home. 

Their next test (which will occur before this edition has been printed) will be away against St. Olaf College, the regular season champions who theoretically have the advantage based on seeding. However, these Scots are relishing the opportunity to rematch an opponent whom they had good opportunities to defeat in the regular season, especially after building momentum from the win against Augsburg. 

“Looking at the playoffs, it’s easy to say that the advantage is in the hands of Olaf or Carleton since they got the bye and are only playing one game on Thursday,” Haenicke said. “But we had the unique opportunity to play a really good team twice, once at the end of our [regular] season and once for the quarterfinals. And these other teams, you know, ended their season playing teams that were a little bit easier and then they had almost a week off. So we have kind of a unique opportunity to actually take advantage of where we’ve been placed in the conference. I think in a lot of ways it gives us the advantage going into Thursday because we have that rhythm of being continuously in-season, not having that big break and also playing a really hard team and getting a shutout. I think that’s a good perspective to have going into [the semifinal] and we’ll see what happens Thursday, but we’re really confident.”

“The last time we played Olaf, I think they got the better of us in the first half and I think we got the better of them in the second half,” Sciortino said. “It’s definitely going to be an even game. Aside from last year, these games [against St. Olaf] are always very intense. I think everybody’s just super energized, and I feel like we have a good chance going into the game despite our seeding, and we want to make a statement.”

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