The Wartburg men’s soccer team took the Iowa Conference tournament title from Loras Saturday night in Dubuque in a thrilling penalty kick shootout.
This was a revenge match for Wartburg after Loras was responsible for Wartburg’s only conference loss of the season just two weeks ago, and its overtime last year in the championship game.
“We talked about it before the game what happened and we told each other that we’re not going out sad again,” senior midfielder Brady Anderson said. “We told each other that we can do it together, and we did.”
Tyler Salzwedel was the first to strike, landing his second goal of the season. He gave Wartburg the 1-0 lead and the momentum going into the second half with a goal just eight seconds before halftime.
The beginning of the second half was quiet. The last 20 minutes of the half was anything but.
With 20:29 left in the game Loras was awarded a penalty kick, but Mike Pizzello’s shot went high and Wartburg continued to possess the lead.
Pizzello’s shot was one of 17 wayward shots from Loras. Loras only had seven shots on goal through double overtime. Wartburg totaled 16 shots, nine of which were on goal
Pizzello redeemed himself eight minutes later with a goal to tie the game.
Two minutes after that, Zubeen Azari put a header past the goalie after an assist from Jay Tegge to reclaim the lead 2-1.
With five minutes on the clock, all Wartburg had to do was keep Loras from scoring.
That wasn’t the case though as Calvin Miller put a header into the back of the net to tie the game at two.
Both teams had a good chance to score again as Anderson attempted to put a header past Loras’ goalie, but the shot was blocked.
Loras took the ball down the field and took a shot with only 25 seconds left in regulation. Wartburg goalie Austin Boyke saved the shot and the game went into OT.
Loras took five shots in OT, but landed none of them after Boyke blocked three of them and the other two weren’t on goal.
The game moved to double-overtime. Again, there were no goals, and the game went to a shootout. The team with the most goals after five attempts would win.
Coming into Saturday, Wartburg was 0-2 on penalty kicks, but was perfect Saturday.
The first three kickers for Wartburg, Tegge, Dan Nadeau and Peter Tran, all put it in the back of the net. The same went for Loras’s first three kickers.
The game changed when Boyke saved Loras’ fourth kick from Jonah Jacke.
Kevin Krueger stepped up next for the Knights and landed his kick, giving Wartburg the 4-3 advantage. Miller converted for the Duhawks to tie the score.
Anderson was next. A goal would give Wartburg the game, the tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA national tournament. If he missed, the game would go into a sudden death shootout.
“I knew I was going to make it,” Anderson said. “My teammates told me I was going to make it. I 100 percent knew I was going to make it.”
Anderson nailed the shot and Wartburg won its sixth conference tournament title and its first since 2009.
“It was the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my entire life,” Anderson said. “There’s nothing that is comparable to making your teammates happy.”
The win was a long time coming for the Wartburg seniors.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for four years and we finally made it happen,” Salzwedel said.
The players aren’t the only ones who desperately wanted this win.
“I told them before the game that this was the game I was most excited for in my whole career, playing or coaching, and it’s because these guys are pretty special guys, and we can accomplish big things, and they proved that tonight,” Artist said.
Winning the championship game was even more special for the Knights because it was at rival Loras.
“It’s one thing to beat Loras, but to beat Loras on their home field, it’s unreal,” Boyke said.
Looking forward to the NCAA tournament – Wartburg will learn its opponent Monday – the players feel ready to tackle whatever comes next.
“You can’t stop us,” Anderson said.
Salzwedel said Wartburg is ready for the NCAA tournament.
“There’s a lot of belief on this team and it can take us a long way.”