Soccer to make postseason push



Alejandro Pacheco getting loose before the Western take on Denver on senior day.

Bradley Piros, Courier Staff

It wasn’t exactly the perfect ending for the Western Illinois University men’s soccer team as they wrapped up their regular season with a 0-0 tie against Bradley University and a 1-0 loss to the University of Denver Colorado Pioneers. Both games were well-fought until the end, but the results didn’t turn up. With those final matches now in the books, Western finished 5-9-1, but they are absolutely ready for the Summit League tournament.

Many people say that once you make it to the playoffs, your regular season record doesn’t matter anymore, and that’s applicable in Western’s case. They didn’t finish with a stellar record, but they need to forget about the bad times, learn from their previous mistakes and move on. The playoffs are, in a way, a time to start over and that’s exactly what the Leathernecks need to do because from here on out, it’s win or go home.

Only the top four teams made it into the tournament, and those four teams each got a seed. They rank as follows: the Pioneers (1), the Leathernecks (2), the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks (3) and the Eastern Illinois University Panthers (4). The first seeded Pioneers play the Panthers at 2 p.m. and the second ranked Leathernecks take on the Mavericks at 5 p.m. The winners of those two games will meet in the final on Saturday.

The tournament semi-finals are set, but who will move on, and how do the Leathernecks shape up compared to Omaha?

First, some quick facts about Omaha they were the 2016 Summit League Champions, and that’s why they get to host the tournament this year. The team with the best regular season Summit League record hosts the tournament the following year, which was Omaha. They made it to the tournament final, only to lose 2-1, to Denver, but they are looking to use their home field advantage and make it back to the final.

Western met with Omaha once already this year; however, they were defeated 2-0. Overall, the Mavericks finished 9-5-2, as well as 2-1-2 in conference.

Western hasn’t made it to the tournament final in a while, but Omaha is familiar with the position and they are eager to get back there. Last year, the Leathernecks were knocked out by Denver off of a very controversial penalty kick in the 82nd minute of the game, which helped the Pioneers move on 1-0. Western has some bad blood with Denver, so they want to do everything they can to possibly, and most likely meet them in the final this year.

Ironically, the four teams moving on are the exact same as last year, which makes for some bitter rivalries, and some teams seeking revenge. With that being said, Western wants to give Omaha a taste of their own medicine, as they look to embarrass the Mavericks on their home field. It won’t be easy, but the men’s soccer program is driven to get something out of this season.

Looking to get things started in the post-season for Western is junior forward Drew Whalen. He has eight goals on the season for 16 points, and he is looking to keep up that form going into the tournament. Along with him, the Leathernecks have the Pacheco brothers. The seniors, they are ready to leave everything out on the field for their team, and more or less each other. Fernando, has seven goals and one assist while his brother Alejandro has only one goal and one assist. His one goal however was the game winner with less than 20 seconds left against Summit League foe Oral Roberts.

Expect this offense to come out hot, and expect some intense games during this tournament. Western kicks off at 5 p.m. tomorrow night in Omaha, Nebraska.

Twitter: @bradjp08