It was a feat the Nebraska Wesleyan men’s soccer team hadn’t accomplished in 20 years — a win in a conference tournament.
The streak ended Saturday when the Prairie Wolves (11-6-1) dropped Dubuque 2-0 at Abel Stadium to advance to the semifinals of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
“It feels awesome to get a tournament win; this team was hungry for some success, and it really showed in a great week of training going into this match,” Wesleyan coach Tudor Flintham said.
It didn’t take long for the Prairie Wolves to take the upper hand against the Spartans. Freshman defender Cade Miller slotted a goal home in the 25th minute off a throw-in. The goal was the Elkhorn South graduate’s second of the season; Brady Blazek and Jake Kennedy had the assists.
Kennedy, a Lincoln Southeast graduate playing in his junior season for Wesleyan, doubled the Prairie Wolves' lead in the 56th minute with a thundering header off a cross from Hunter Kruse.
The Prairie Wolves outshot the Spartans 18-11 and enjoyed the run of play throughout most of the match.
Wesleyan goalkeeper Jack Nespor made three saves against Dubuque on the way to his seventh clean sheet of the season.
The win was somewhat of a payback performance after the Spartans snapped Wesleyan’s three-game winning streak just 10 days before the tournament rematch. The Spartans outclassed the Prairie Wolves that day in a 3-0 victory in Dubuque, but Flintham and his squad used that experience Saturday.
“It was a long trip and we were just too open when we played them recently,” Flintham said. “We changed our tactics coming into the match, and they didn’t spot it until the second half. Our team shape made a difference today. This team put in a lot of work this week and they really bought in.”
With the win, the fourth-seeded Prairie Wolves will now face top-seeded Luther College on Wednesday in Decorah, Iowa. Wesleyan lost to the Norse 4-0 in the first conference match of the season but with a lot of fresh faces in the Wolves’ starting 11.
“I told the guys that they’ve played us but they haven’t really seen us this season,” Flintham added. “It will be a challenge, but this team is hungry and there could be some blood in the water after this win.”
— Shea Carlson