By Kyle Daubs
Lincoln soccer has come a long way.
Head coach Tim Stuckey has been with the program since 2005 and had compiled a 135-205-26 record in 16 seasons before this year. Lincoln, known more as a basketball school, owns just one IHSA Regional Championship in its program’s history, but the Railsplitters are in prime position to have a breakout year after already setting the school record for wins in a season last week.
This weekend sets up an Apollo Conference soccer showdown between undefeated Lincoln and one-loss Mahomet-Seymour for the conference championship. Lincoln, at 18-0-2 overall and 8-0-1 in the Apollo Conference, has grown into a top team in the state.
“We started a soccer club in Lincoln in 2009,” said Stuckey. “These players were on some of the first teams we had in 2010-11 and have played more soccer over the years than previous Lincoln players. The club will allow us to maintain a competitive team year after year. We also have plenty of speed on our offense and a very experienced defense this year.”
Lincoln goalkeeper Jaden Klopp has 14 shutouts in Lincoln’s 18 wins. Lincoln has only given up nine goals in 21 games. On offense, senior striker Garrett Slack has 43 goals and has scored in 19 of our 21 games. Junior midfielder Christopher Slack has 9 goals and 27 assists. Sophomore midfielder Aidan Gowin has 12 goals and 16 assists. Junior forward Cadge Kingsley has 14 goals and 6 assists.
Mattoon, who is coming off a 7-1 loss to Mahomet-Seymour on Tuesday, played Mattoon to a tie, which Stuckey calls a hurtful finish.
“Our tie with Mattoon hurt us, although we are still in the driver’s seat for the conference title,” said Stuckey. “ We beat Mahomet the first time, but they have been playing well the last couple of weeks so it will certainly be a challenge when we face them a second time this weekend.”
Mahomet-Seymour head coach Jeremy Davis is hopeful that the Bulldogs will be at 100% in what will be the team’s biggest game of the season.
“We need to get healthy,” said Davis. “Several of our best players have been out throughout the season, and are just now coming back. If we can get them game fit, I think we should be even more dangerous than we have been. Even with missing them, we have had some excellent outings against top 10 state level competition the last few weeks.”
Last week, the Bulldogs were missing seven starters, but still found a way to beat a strong, traditional soccer program in Champaign Central, who is 13-5-2 on the season and plays in the powerhouse Big 12 Conference.
“You go into every game thinking you can win,” said Davis. “Shoot, we played Central the past week missing seven starters due to a variety of reasons. As a team, we still planned to execute a game plan to win the game. The Lincoln game will be no different. We will show up with a plan and the ability to win the game. They will be well-coached, but there’s a lot of parity in boy’s soccer. Any team can win on any day. It will come down to who does more with the chances they get on that particular day. Lincoln did better with those chances the first time.”
Mattoon has scored the second-highest goals in the conference but ranks third with a 5-3-2 conference record. With a handful of games on the slate, including a rematch with Mt. Zion, who is 5-4-1 in the Apollo, the team will look to clinch at least third place pending anything happens at the top two spots in the standings.
Charleston is fifth with a 3-6-0 mark in the conference but could play spoiler with Effingham, Mt. Zion, and Mattoon on the schedule. Three straight wins could mean a .500 conference record.