Eagles escape with a win

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello New Ulm’s Isaac Blumhoefer (4) plays the ball away from Cody Pithan (17) of Mankato Loyola Tuesday at New Ulm High School.

NEW ULM — With his team clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the game and Mankato Loyola on the attack, New Ulm goalkeeper Joshua Rakoczy put his body and the game on the line.

Rakoczy saw that a Loyola attacker was chasing down a loose ball for a chance at a breakaway. Rakoczy decided to chase after the ball too, colling with the Loyola attacker and making the game-saving stop.

The Eagles held on for a 2-1 victory over the Crusaders.

Rakoczy’s collision gave his teammates a brief scare as he was down on the field for about 5 minutes. But he got back up and gave his teammates a collective sigh of relief as he finished strong.

“I saw him take the touch, I’m not afraid to put my body on the line for these guys,” the senior keeper said. “I ran out, grabbed it, I just got a knee to the hip area, but as soon as the trainer came out, I told I was not coming off.”

While Rakoczy had perhaps the biggest defensive play of the night, his offensive teammates and fellow seniors Jack Howard and Aaron Eikanger came up with some late-game heroics, also.

The teams battled to a scoreless first half, but the Crusaders took a 1-0 lead in the second half.

Junior attacker Johnny Godoy scored Loyola’s only goal at 28:06 after he made a quick move and got his shot past Rakoczy. That was the only time Rakoczy got beat.

At 10:09, the Eagles got the equalizer, this coming off Eikanger’s foot. At that point, it seemed like the momentum had shifted New Ulm’s way.

“I thought that we didn’t really take our chances to our fullest, but at the end we took our last two chances and we got the last two goals,” Rakoczy said.

Four minutes after Eikanger’s goal, Howard gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead when he scored with 6:07 left. And one minute later, Rakoczy made the huge stop that kept th Eagles in front.

He said that his defense was well-prepared for how the Crusaders attacked.

“We knew that they like to keep trying to do through-balls, we usually practice that a lot,” Rakoczy said. “Our defense is really good this year. I have a lot of faith in them. I know that any trouble that comes my way, they’ll get it out and save us.”

On a team dominated by seniors, it definitely was their night on Tuesday.

“I’ve enjoyed it so much, these guys are such great teammates and I’ve enjoyed playing every second with them, from the first year all the way through summer soccer,” Rakoczy said.

New Ulm is at Mankato East on Thursday.