Union’s men’s soccer team celebrated following a 5-0 shutout win vs. Kentucky Wesleyan College, thanks in no small part to senior forward Joel Ronkko’s two goals and a stellar performance on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bulldogs got off to a lightning fast start in both halves of this game. Paul Langford put up the first of Union’s five goals in just the second minute of play, zipping it into the lower left corner of the open net on his second shot attempt. Union would go into halftime with a 2-0 lead after a Zac Fletcher goal a bit later in the first. A mere 35 seconds into the second half Joel Ronkko put the ball in the back of the net.
“We just came out with the right mindset to put pressure on the other team,” Clovis Simas, head coach, said after the game. “Luckily we were able to get a couple of goals.”
Just six minutes after his first goal, Ronkko scored again. Naturally, with nearly 40 minutes still remaining, everyone at the game was thinking hat trick. Ronkko’s teammates kept feeding him the ball near the goal. In the 64th minute, he even had a one-on-one opportunity against Panthers goalkeeper Grant Allen, but Allen got a foot on the ball at the last second.
With 20 minutes left in the game, Coach Simas decided to take Ronkko out.
“We were up by quite a bit at that point in the game,” Ronkko said. “It’s good to try different combinations to see what works.” Anthony Russo, freshman midfielder, took advantage of his shot off the bench, getting the assist to Lucas Lopes for the Bulldogs’ final goal of the game.
The offense was not the only story in this one, however. Union played easily its best defensive game of the season. According to Simas, the defense was “almost to perfection.” Simas’s comments actually were not that far off. Union did not allow a single Panther shot to even reach Freshman goalkeeper Pedro Haniel, who is now 2-1 since taking over as the team’s starter.
The defense made stark improvements since Haniel got his first start. Union gave up a combined eight goals in the first two games of the regular season, but has given up a total of two in the three games that Haniel has started.
On Friday, the now 2-3 Bulldogs will pay visit to Pensacola, Florida, to take on the 0-3 West Florida Argonauts in their first Gulf South Conference game of the season and their first of three straight on the road.