Players who had been on the bench for the majority of the season helped the Columbia College soccer team the most on Thursday.
Freshman midfielder Gideon Leteyien scored the first goal in the Cougars’ 4-1 win over William Woods, and sophomore goalie Zach Clem recorded his second win of the season.
Leteyien, who came from Kenya to join the Cougars this season, hasn’t played for most of the season because eligibility paperwork was not turned in to the NAIA on time.
“That was really frustrating to me,” Leteyien said. “As I saw the team playing, I knew if I was in there I could assist the team, which now I hope I’m proving.”
Leteyien had several chances after his goal and has become an active member of the Cougar attack, scoring three goals in four games.
“We knew he had something on the ball. He’s pretty confident on the ball,” Cougars coach John Klein said. “We wanted to give him a chance to make an impact. I think he did that tonight. The more and more comfortable he gets, I think it’s going to improve our attack.”
Clem played well in goal, allowing the Owls’ only goal on a penalty kick. Clem was slated to start against Baker on Oct. 7 but was unable to play because of a dislocated finger.
“It was time to give him an opportunity. He’d been waiting two years for an opportunity,” Klein said. “I thought he was pretty solid back there. He comes off his line well, and he’s real positive in the locker room.”
The game was vital to Columbia College’s playoff aspirations. The win separated the Cougars from the Owls and gave the Cougars a two-point lead over Illinois-Springfield for fourth place in the American Midwest Conference, putting them in good position to earn a berth in the conference play-in tournament.
While it appears the Cougars will make the postseason, Klein said that should not be the team’s only goal.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Klein said. “I’d like to find a way to get to No. 2 in the conference and have a home field advantage in both of the play-in games. If we can win Saturday and next Wednesday, at the very least we’re probably No. 2 in the conference and we’ll see home field advantage in those play-in games. I think that’s the next step to shoot for.”