St. Thomas finished their home schedule strong today, powering two goals by Lindenwood as they celebrated seniors Jacek Nickowski, Wes Lorrens, Connor Aksoz, Jack Gleckler, McRay Drong, and Isaac Eckroth, during senior day in St. Paul.
Worry not though Tommie fans, as of now only Connor Aksoz will be leaving St. Thomas next season as the other five seniors maintain a year of eligibility that they plan on seeing out with the team.
And that’s something to look forward to as Jacek Nickowski was a force on the field today. Playing as one of two strikers today in the Tommies’ new-look 3-5-2 formation, Nickowski found himself alone on the other side of Lindenwood’s back line more often than not when he made his runs forward, putting four shots on goal, and slotting home one after Connor Gist went on a whirlwind run around four defenders before squaring the ball across the six yard box for Nickowski to finish.
The other goal on the day belonged to freshman Jorge Pacheco, the other starter up top for St. Thomas, as the dynamic attacking threat is finally off the mark for his career in purple.
It was a new look for the Tommies today, as they were missing captain Wes Lorrens due to a red card he earned when the side faced off against Western Illinois last Saturday. Despite this, Coach Lowery had only rave reviews for the sides’ experimentation with a new formation, “I thought it was exciting… It wasn’t like a revolutionary change for us, to go with three centerbacks, added a midfielder, I think we really capitalized on… the extra midfielder in possession. I’m really scratching my head at some of our moments in penetration where we should have been better in front of goal, but the good news is, I mean, I think that’s probably the most chances we’ve created in the last couple weeks.”
The Tommies will look to close out Summit League play strong during their road trips to Southern Indiana and Kansas City this Wednesday and Saturday. The Tommies currently sit 6th in the Summit on seven total points, four points behind 4th placed Kansas City. While unable to compete in the NCAA postseason as they see out their transitionary period from D3 to D1, it would go a long way to grow the program to see themselves in those playoff spots looking towards the future.
Coach Lowery isn’t getting caught up in wins though, choosing instead to look towards the future of the program. When asked about the two winnable games he had this to say, “Y’know, you’re right, they’re winnable. We’re not gonna talk about that. We’re gonna talk abour how we can defend better, how we can transition better, how we can get healthier, y’know… positive behaviors for the next x amount of days to help us get winnable results. That’s what we’re focused on.”
And Looking Back
While Coach Lowery may be looking towards the future, with St. Thomas finishing up their home schedule (and their season schedule next Saturday) it’s time to look back on their season and what’s come of it. Obviously with two games to go it won’t be perfect, but there’s plenty of things that have become apparent. The first of which is that this team is built for the future.
Coach Lowery never hesitated to bring his underclassmen into the game with two of them, Jorge Pacheco (a freshman) and Oliver Bieleveldt (a sophmore), being amongst the team leaders in minutes. Another, Carver Tierney (also a freshman), is currently tied with Jacek Nickowski for the team lead in goals, with three of them in nearly six hundred less minutes than Nickowski played. If this trio of players makes strides forward next season alongside the already talented core of older players, you can expect far less games like the 5-0 loss against Omaha, and far more games like today’s 2-0 win or the 0-0 draw against nationally ranked Denver.
With their current Summit League points total of seven points, they have already eclipsed their total of six from last year, and with two games to go, you would rate the team to even add to those seven points. Which leads me to the second thing that has become apparent this season: the Tommies are a group with a high ceiling. This was most obvious this season when the high and mighty Pioneers came to town and St. Thomas managed to play with them the full 90′, but expect the team to continue to grow as the younger players are integrated and continue to receive competitive minutes.
You can check out the final two games of the season Wednesday 11/2 at 2pm and Saturday 11/5 at 7pm. The Summit League tournament will take place November 10th-12th in Denver.