COLUMBIA – Columbia College men's soccer coach John Klein made some adjustments with his team coming into its first postseason game on Saturday against William Woods University.
Instead of playing up by the opposing team's goal, freshman Brian Eike helped his team to a 1-0 victory by defending the goal. Although he has never been a defender, either for the Cougars or at St. Mary's High School in St. Louis, Klein's strategy worked.
"I thought Eike and Nermin (Begovic) did a nice job in the back," Klein said. "They communicated well."
Eike has played forward for the Cougars this season and has been effective, earning an assist in the Cougars' last home game against Baker University. But Klein recognized the need for some changes for the team to be successful in the playoffs.
"It's kind of late in the season to be experimenting, but we've certainly had a weakness or two and maybe we're filling those gaps in with these changes," he said.
Along with pulling Eike into the back, Klein had junior midfielder Jordan Cox play forward.
"Jordan just brings another energy level to our attack, and that's something we have been lacking," Klein said. "A speedy attack in the front and communication in the back may take us a little farther in the playoffs."
The Cougars recorded 17 shots with five on-goal compared to the Owls' five shots overall and one on-goal.
Five minutes into the match, Columbia College's Jimmy Hermann crossed the ball to Dylan Barduzzi on the left, who knocked it to the ground and kicked it in for the lone goal of the game.
"We got the goal at a good time because after that goal, we played with more confidence," Barduzzi said.
Only a minute after the goal, the Cougars almost took the lead to 2-0 but Columbia College's Tim Tevlin's shot was punched out of the goal. Tevlin and Barduzzi combined for eight shots and five on-goal.
In the 60th minute, the Owls had their only real chance of tying the game when William Woods' forward Cory Herchenroeder beat Eike and drove the ball just to the left of the net.
Columbia College advances to the American Midwest Conference semifinals in Lebanon, Ill. at 7 p.m. against No. 1 McKendree University.
"They've gotta be excited to play McKendree because McKendree always comes out excited," Klein said. "We have to make sure we don't give them something silly."
McKendree ended the regular season at 13-3-2. Columbia College went 8-7-3. The Cougars fell to the Bearcats 2-0 earlier this season.
"We don't go into any game not trying," Eike said. "We'll be in every game — I'm not guaranteeing a win — but we'll be in it."