The Panthers have not gotten off to the start they hoped for this season, going 1-2-1 through the first four games. After opening the season with a win against Evansville, the Panthers have come up winless in three straight games: a shutout loss at national powerhouse Creighton, a tie in the Milwaukee Cup showdown vs. Marquette and a loss at Bradley on a late goal.
Milwaukee, however, has a chance to right the ship this weekend in a weekend tournament at Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. The team will take on Western Athletic Conference member Houston Baptist on Friday afternoon and will play the host Bulldogs two days later. It is the first ever meeting between the Panthers and Huskies and the first meeting with Gonzaga since 2005.
Players to watch for Milwaukee include senior goaltender Agustin Rey, senior midfielder Declan Rodriguez and two freshmen: forward Tinashe Marowa and midfielder Matthias Binder. Rodriguez leads the team with two goals, while Marowa, Binder and two others are tied with one. The Panthers have only scored one goal in the past three games after the five-goal season kickoff against the Purple Aces.
HBU looks to be an improved team this season, as their 2-2-0 record is one win shy of their win total from last season. Five starters and 11 letterwinners from last year’s team returned. Two players to watch for the Huskies are two seniors: forward Marcelo Acuna and goaltender Philip Poser. Acuna ranks second in the WAC in goals scored (3) and total points (7), along with fourth in points per game. Poser carries a 1-2-0 record with a 0.86 goals-against-average into the tournament.
The Bulldogs (or the Zags), of the West Coast Conference, return 16 letterwinners from a 5-11-1 team. Three of the top five scorers from last season are back, and four of their current players (senior F Conner Bevans, juniors Graison Le (F) and David Sigurdsson (D) and sophomore D Ben White) were all-WCC honorable mention a season ago. The team has two shutouts through the first four games and hold a 2-1-1 record.
Sunday’s game vs. Bradley was a defensive showdown that saw senior defenseman J.T. Kotowski score to break a scoreless deadlock at the 86:35 mark. The Panthers outshot the Braves 15-13 and both teams shot three on target. Bradley won the corner kick battle, 10-8.
The Milwaukee Cup game last Thursday set a record for attendance at a collegiate men’s soccer game in Wisconsin history with a crowd of 4,030, beating the previous record of 3,312 in 2013. The latter was a matchup of the same two teams.