MILWAUKEE – The Panthers scored for the first time in six games on Tuesday night, finding the net in each half and playing its usual stout defense in a 2-0 victory over Western Illinois at Englemann Stadium.
Head coach Kris Kelderman was relieved to see his team wake up offensively.
“It feels good, we have been waiting for that for a while, unfortunately,” he said. “It’s nice because we scored an early goal and we haven’t done that in a while either. It was just a solid performance from beginning to finish. I am very proud of the guys; a good effort tonight.”
The upperclassmen took charge in finally getting the ball in the net. Senior midfielder Declan Rodriguez scored a goal in the sixth minute off of a feed from fellow senior and forward Zach Stevenson. Stevenson would score the second half goal to finish with two points. The goal from Rodriguez came a few minutes after he hit a shot off the crossbar.
The Leathernecks were not able to muster any kind of offensive attack in the first half, as the Milwaukee defense did not allow a shot on goal. Kelderman commented on the team’s early defensive energy.
“We got off to a good start, a lot of energy,” he said. “We were able to carry it on throughout the game. It was a different look in the back as well. We had two other guys that played in the back tonight. Alex Young played his first match tonight, played 90 minutes and had an excellent performance. Even had his first assist. Very pleased, not only with the back line and the goal, but with the team defense.”
Defensively, the Panthers kept up that intensity in the second half, and Stevenson’s goal in the 72nd minute off a feed from Young, a freshman defender, and fellow freshman and midfielder Francesco Saporito effectively iced the game.
Senior goalkeeper Agustin Rey posted his second shutout in a row and third one on the season. Rodriguez and Stevenson accounted for seven of the team’s 13 total shots. Milwaukee managed six more shots than Western Illinois, two more on goal.
In addition to the shots advantage, the home squad had three corner kicks to the Leathernecks two. The Panthers did commit more fouls (15-10) than WIU, however.
Milwaukee played its final non-conference game on Tuesday night. Its final two conference games, one on the road and one at home, are against Detroit and Northern Kentucky, respectively. Kickoff for the Detroit game is scheduled for Saturday at noon.