After defeating UW-Platteville on Saturday night, the Duhawks returned to the Rock Bowl on Saturday to take on the Wheaton College Thunder for the Elite 8, and the chance to play in the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas. These two clubs met in the regular season, with Loras coming out on top 2-0. However, when you’re playing soccer on November 17, the stakes are much higher, and both teams were aware of this.
Loras got off to a hot start, with sophomore Johnny Rummelhart capitalizing on an early corner kick. For the second time in the NCAA Division III Championships, Rummelhart springboarded his way up into the cool Dubuque air to win a header and punch it into the back of the net. Loras used their speed and intensity to pressure every man on the pitch, and playing with the 1-0 lead certainly worked to their advantage.
Through 45 minutes of play, Wheaton held a significant shot advantage and corner kick advantage, but some unbelievable saves by the one and only Dylan Milkent kept the Thunder at a minimum and off the scoreboard.
Following a throw in from Sam Koenig, senior Forrest Olson and freshman JoJo Schmidt applied ruthless pressure in the corner, eventually forcing the ball to pop out at which point Schmidt took a light touch and sent it soaring to the far post where junior Erik Berkowitz was ready to pounce. Berkowitz took to the air and headed the cross past the Wheaton keeper.
With pandemonium exploding in the stands and on the pitch, the Duhawks found themselves up 2-0 with less than 30 minutes remaining in the match. They were fully aware, however, that in this wonderful game of soccer, anything can happen, especially when a team’s season is on the line.
Wheaton did everything they could to bring the match back to even ground, but captain Dan Figura and company were up to the task of protecting the lead and securing the win. Wheaton did cut the lead in half in the 88th minute, but that would be all they could muster.
As the clock ticked down to zero, the Duhawk fans and faithful erupted in a cheer like no other. For the first time since 2008, the Loras College Duhawks advance to the Final Four and will await the winner of tomorrow’s match between Scranton and Messiah.
For now, they can celebrate and enjoy the win, but every single one of them will not be satisfied unless they add two more wins in 2012 and bring home the National Championship.