The Tommies hosted the Loras College Hawks, a team ranked seventh in the nation, in a non-conference game on St. Thomas’ south field Saturday.
“This is our second game so you come into it wanting to learn things and we learned a lot of things about a lot of our players,” said head coach Aaron Macke. “Like who can step up and play in a big game and who still has a little ways to go.”
Loras’ Tom Stumpf scored a goal midway through the first half, leaving the Tommies the rest of the game to try and catch up.
St. Thomas goalie Alex Benson was able to stop a penalty shot with 18 minutes left in the game, but the Tommies were unable to get a goal of their own and lost 1-0 to Loras.
“The first half we played them pretty tough, but we made one big mistake by streaking center-mid in the middle and they scored a nice goal on us,” said senior and team captain Reed Moser-Bleil. “In the second half we really started attacking them. We got caught a little bit on counter attacks but things worked out well. We got several opportunities, but we just couldn’t capitalize and that was the difference between us and a top 10 team.”
However, even after playing such a tough opponent, Moser-Bleil is ready to take what the Tommies learned during the game and use it in upcoming practices.
“We created a bunch of chances against a No. 7 team in the country, so the opportunities were there, but we’re just not quite as good as them right now,” he said. “So we’ll go back to practice on Tuesday, work hard and hopefully catch them on our heels next time.”
St. Thomas was ranked No. 2 in preseason MIAC polls and the team mainly consists of veteran players, including eight seniors.
“We have great team chemistry, especially with a bunch of returners,” said senior and captain Jeff Frank. “So returning most of our team makes it easier to build on this year.”
With so many returners, St. Thomas hopes to post its fifth consecutive top-four conference finish. But a tough schedule will make this a challenging season for the Tommies.
“There are legitimately six or seven teams [in the MIAC] that have a shot at first place, so anything we do out of conference is really to set ourselves up for the conference,” Macke said.
He said last year’s season was a good one for the team.
“We reached the playoffs again, and I thought we did very well in light of a lot of situations with injuries and illness early in the season,” he said. “It was a tough finish, but Carleton is the best team in our conference. They worked at it better than us and everyone else so they deserved to win that game.”
“Every year is a new year in its own way,” Macke said. “We’re really excited about this year’s team and I think the guys are too.”
The Tommies begin MIAC conference play Sept. 18 at home against Augsburg.
Meg Tvrdik can be reached at email@example.com.