One would be hard pressed to find two men’s soccer players in the Midwest Conference playing better than Knox sophomore Jacob Polay and freshman Charlie Harned. right now. During the Prairie Fire’s four-game unbeaten streak Polay has scored three goals and four assists while Harned has tallied eight goals and two assists.
Polay scored the game-tying goal against Lawrence that led to Knox securing their first conference point since 2008. He also netted the game winner against Monmouth to give the Prairie Fire their first win over a conference opponent over the same time span. For his efforts, Polay was named Midwest Conference Offensive Player of the week.
“It is a real honor to be named Midwest Conference offensive performer of the week,” Polay said. “Beating Monmouth was something I will never forget and to be named player of the week thereafter was a definite surprise.”
Not to be outdone, Harned had a historic week himself, putting up four goal performances in a pair of 7-1 Knox victories over MacMurray and Eureka Colleges and in the process being named Prairie Fire Performer of the Week.
“I [scored four goals] once in high school, but to be honest it has been a lot of teamwork out there,” Harned said.
The impressive performances have provoked a competitive spirit amongst the players.
“I got four goals today, [Polay] got three assists today. Next time I might get four assists and [Polay will] get five goals. We like to push each other,” Harned said.
Ultimately, it is all in good fun for the Prairie Fire, which now sits at 5-3-1 for the season and 1-1-1 in MWC play.
Outside the prolific scoring, the high point of the week was a 2-1 victory over rival Monmouth
“We felt [a conference victory] was coming. We didn’t know how massive it would be,” head coach Matt Edwards said of the Monmouth triumph.
New to the Knox athletic department, Edwards brought in some outside help to inspire the team for the rivalry game.
“We had [baseball coach] Jami Isaacson speak to the team about the Monmouth-Knox rivalry because being a new staff member I’m not overly familiar with it,” Edwards said. “[After the meeting] I could certainly feel from the guys that they were completely ready.”
Edwards was exposed to the environment of the Knox-Monmouth rivalry as the raucous fan section brought emotion and energy to the proceedings.
“I can’t thank the student body, the faculty and the staff enough for coming out and supporting the team,” he said. “It’s really nice to play in that kind of environment.”
But even with the fan support it still comes down to execution on the field, something Edwards felt the team succeeded in achieving.
“They stuck to the game plan so well,” Edwards said. “The lone goal we conceded was from a corner, so to only give up one goal from a set piece shows how well we defended for the game as a whole.”
“This year, the team has worked a lot towards becoming a team instead of a group of individuals,” Polay said. “We all trust that the other will give 110 percent. All of the players have also really bought into the system coach Edwards has put us in.”
While Edwards supports the enthusiasm from the fans they were also the reason he was not on the sidelines against Eureka on Wednesday.
When the crowd stormed the field in the moments after the Monmouth game, Edwards, who had already received a yellow card for arguing with the officials, received a second yellow while in the process of trying to get the officials off the field.
“There was a misunderstanding at the end of the game,” Edwards said. “The officials were upset that the field had been stormed. They didn’t understand the magnitude of what we had achieved that day. I was trying to usher them off the field to let what was going to happen happen, which wasn’t taken in the right way.”
Edwards stated he has since received phone calls from the officials in question apologizing for the misunderstanding.
Still, the second yellow meant a one game suspension for Edwards, but the coach had confidence his team would be able to adjust.
“The best thing about this group is that they know exactly what they need to do,” he said. “[Soccer] is not a game where they need me to joystick around to solve the problems. They know what the substitution patterns are, so I don’t think it will be much of an issue.”
That was clearly the case against Eureka as Knox won 7-1, although assistant coach Marcus Moreno ’05 still felt some jitters in his first game as the lead man on the sideline.
“There was definitely some nerves out there, but we had been working hard this whole week and the game ended up being the easy part,” Moreno said.
Edwards will be back when the Prairie Fire take on Grinnell College at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29.