Men’s Soccer Opens Conference Play at St. Thomas

Eastern Illinois (1-4-1) at St. Thomas (1-6-1)
September 24 at 12 PM
St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn. (Southfield)

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Panthers Open Summit League Play In Twin Cities
Eastern Illinois men’s soccer concludes their long road stretch to open the season on Saturday, September 24 when they open Summit League conference play at St. Thomas and St. Paul-Minneapolis. The Panthers head to the twin cities with an overall record of 1-4-1 following last Saturday’s 6-0 loss at Houston Baptist while the Tommies enter Saturday’s match with an overall record of 1-6-1, coming off of a tie against Green Bay on Wednesday. Kickoff is set for noon CT.

EIU Finding The Back of the Net
Sam Eccles has been the Panthers’ offensive leader so far this season. The Hofstra transfer leads the team with nine shots, four shots on goal, and has scored two goals so far this season to go along with an assist. His five points on the season are tied for sixth in the Summit League. He scored a goal off a penalty kick in the 82nd minute of EIU’s opener at Green Bay for the Panthers’ first goal of the regular season, and netted his second goal in the 8th minute against IUPUI. He averages one point per game, which ranks third in the Summit League. Delphi Sabu found the back of the net in the 72nd minute to help secure a tie against Xavier, while Julian Smith netted what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 15th minute at Purdue Fort Wayne off a pass from Eccles.

Smith Locks It Down At Goalkeeper
Chad Smith has played a team-high 492 minutes at goalkeeper this season for EIU. He played all 90 minutes in EIU’s win at Purdue Fort Wayne, earning his first shutout of the season en route to a Panther win. His four first half saves against Xavier single-handedly kept the Panthers in the game and his save in the second half preserved the eventual tie. He accumulated a career-high 13 saves and allowed just two goals despite facing 51 shots in EIU’s game against Dayton. Smith’s 5.17 saves per game lead the Summit League and rank 11th in the nation. His 31 total saves are tied for first in the conference and rank 18th in the nation. His 0.689 save percentage ranks fourth in the conference. As a team, EIU leads the conference and ranks 10th in the nation with 6.40 saves per game.

Spallinger, Okonny Make Early Impact
Freshman Forward Jude Spallinger scored a goal in EIU’s home exhibition win over Parkland CC. Okonny made the assist on the goal and also scored a goal of his own in the win. Spallinger also has one assist on the season and four shots.

Smith, Hamler Named Players To Watch
Chad Hamler and Julian Smith have been named Summit League Preseason Players to Watch. Hamler comes into this season having made 35 starts at Midfielder for the Panthers. He scored a game-winning goal a season ago in the Panthers’ win at IUPUI and recorded two goals in EIU’s exhibition win over Parkland Community College. Hamler leads all returning Panthers with 14 shots recorded a season ago. Smith appeared in all 15 games for EIU a season ago, including six starts. He scored a game-winning goal in EIU’s home win over St. Thomas.

Series History
Saturday will mark the second all-time meeting between the Panthers and the Tommies, as St. Thomas is in their second year as members of the Summit League after making the jump from NCAA Division III to Division I. EIU won the first meeting a season ago at Lakeside Field 1-0.

Up Next
The Panthers will make their home debut for the 2022 season as they host Summit League newcomer Southern Indiana at Lakeside Field on Saturday, October 1. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 PM CT.

The Oakley Era Begins
This season is the first under the new head coach Josh Oakley, who was hired as the 11th head coach in the history of the program on June 29. A native of Mattoon, Ill., Oakley previously served as an assistant coach at EIU from 2000-02, and returns to Charleston after a successful stint at Lansing Common FC in the Midwest Premier League. Oakley also has previous collegiate coaching experience with stops at Spring Arbor University, Alma College, and Asbury College.

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