PELLA — The Central College men’s soccer team needed only 30 seconds to score the game-winning goal in a 5-0 victory against Buena Vista University Tuesday, Oct. 29 sealing the program’s first-ever conference title.
Midfielder Nathan Casas kick started the offense 30 ticks after the opening whistle, netting his fourth goal of the year to give the Dutch (14-2-2, 6-1-1 American Rivers Conference) the early lead. Forward Charlie Pritchard had the assist.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start,” coach Garry Laidlaw said. “It was obviously something we discussed after we didn’t score until late against Coe on Saturday. The longer you leave a team hanging around, the more hope they get. It was a fantastic start and just what we needed today.”
Central would score four more goals to clinch the league crown against the Beavers (1-14-3, 0-8-0 conference). It’s an especially gratifying finish for Laidlaw, who’s engaged in a lengthy and sometimes maddening quest for a conference crown since taking over a struggling young program in 1998.
Remarkably, while this is Central’s first league title, it is actually the third time Laidlaw’s Dutch have finished atop the league standings. In 2002, Central finished with an 8-0-1 conference mark. However, at the time, conference championships were awarded based on a point system that combined a team’s conference regular-season performance and its league tournament finish. The Dutch finished fourth at the conference tournament.
In 2008, Central and Loras each finished with 21 points and matching 7-1 records. But the Dutch were relegated to second place because of a short-lived league rule that docked teams a point in the team standings when a player received a red card during the season for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It also caps a dramatic turnaround for a squad that posted 3-5 league records each of the past two seasons and was 1-6 in 2015.
“I don’t know if I can describe the feeling right now,” Laidlaw said. “I mean, this league is such a great league and it’s humbling to realize that we’ve been able to finish on top this year.”
Another stoic effort by the Dutch defense, resulted in the team’s seventh shutout.
“They’ve become a pretty solid unit back there,” Laidlaw said.
Three Central players tallied their first goals of the season, starting with defender Taylor Petkvoich in the 12th minute. Tristin Gilles converted in the 67th minute and Dillon Maass buried a penalty kick in the 73rd minute.
Brant Mueller was credited with an assist on Petkovich’s goal and Ian Meentemyer had one on Gilles’ tally.
The coaching staff was able to insert 35 different players into the contest, making the moment even sweeter.