The Ashland University men's soccer team is off to a 2-0 start for the second straight year and were recently ranked No. 7 in the United Soccer Coaches Midwest Region rankings.
The Eagles will look for their third consecutive win on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Gannon at Ferguson Field. While the Golden Knights are winless on the season, their losses have come against No. 1 Charleston, perennial power Notre Dame (Ohio) and preseason No. 12 Urbana. Gannon was ranked in the Top 25 for a majority of last season.
Ashland is coming off a pair of three-goal performances, blanking Malone in the season opener at home before knocking off Ohio Dominican, 3-2, on Sunday.
Last season it took until their sixth game for the Eagles to record their sixth goal of the season. The increased offensive firepower has given the team confidence they can have more success going forward as they continue to build the program in its second season under head coach Oliver Slawson.
"Last year we struggled a little bit," said sophomore midfielder Justin Kowalski. "This year, we're starting off hot, getting our strikers a lot of reps in practice, a lot of encouragement from the other players. We're just going to keep shooting, so hopefully we get more and more."
"I think the confidence has really gone up, because last year we didn't really score goals at the rate we wanted to," said sophomore midfielder Alex Majors. "Scoring three in the first two games in the run of play showed us that we can score the goals that we need to win big games."
In each of their two games, the Eagles got goals from sophomore midfielder Thomas Ardron, sophomore forward Andrew Pearson and freshman forward Justin Libertowski. AU hopes that form continues against the Golden Knights, who have allowed eight goals in three games.
"It's very much a snowball effect," said Ardron. "Last year it took us a while to get off the mark, and it reflected throughout the season. This year with us scoring so many goals, we know we can do it."
The Eagles have also been solid defensively, allowing just two goals in their road game at Ohio Dominican. Both ODU goals came off set pieces. Ashland has gotten 12 saves from freshman keeper Dimitrius Karousos.
According to Majors, the Eagles will need to remain organized on the back line in order to keep Gannon off the board.
"I think the main thing will be keeping good shape defensively," he said. "Staying organized and disciplined will get us as far as we need to go, because we've proven we have guys that can score goals."
The Eagles begin conference play next week with games at Davenport and Purdue Northwest.