Bethel goalkeeper continues Royal success at the position.
Jason Stormer | Sports Editor
In what has been a long season for the Bethel men’s soccer team, the things to celebrate have been few and far between. Although the team took the third most shots per game in the MIAC, they were in the bottom three in shooting percentage. The Royals took the fourth most shots, but scored the fourth least goals.
Granted, the team lost two of its top-5 point leaders, Jake Opheim and Matthew Pisarski, from a year ago, but returners like junior Danny Jaderholm and senior Ryan Ness created confidence amongst the MIAC coaches at the season’s start that the Royals would again be fighting for a potential playoff berth by ranking them seventh in the preseason poll.
Bethel finished with a 6-10-2 overall record and 2-7-1 in conference, the third worst record in the MIAC. For a group that was at the cusp of breaking a decade-long playoff drought last season by finishing two points out of a playoff berth, this season has been a step backward for a program that has not played a game in November since 2004.
Still, in a season with expected results not coming to fruition, there was something that saved it from complete ineptitude.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jakob Bartels put up solid numbers in 2015 by finishing the season sixth in the MIAC in save percentage (.795) and first in saves (97). He also played the fifth-most minutes (1,489) and was in the top-10 in goals against average in a minimum of 10 games played (1.51). He’s the first Bethel keeper to lead the conference in saves since Leif Sundberg in 2011. He even registered a goal from his own box in the team’s match against St. Olaf on Oct. 17.
After splitting time with A.J. Syler last season and starting nine games his freshman year, Bartels put in the most minutes (925) by a freshman keeper in the MIAC, giving him valuable experience not many in his position get to have.
“It’s definitely good for goalkeepers to face live-game action as much as possible to gain experience and feel the speed and pace of the game,” goalkeeper coach Eric Berg said. “There are just some scenarios that can’t be replicated in training sessions so live game play is the only way to get good experience.”
“I think it’s hard for a young guy to come in feeling confident right away,” Bartels said. “In the long run, I think getting playing time as a freshman was really helpful.”
It remains to be seen if Bartels’ numbers are good enough to help him become Bethel’s third goalkeeper to ever earn All-MIAC or honorable mention honors. Eric Berg earned his spot on the All-Conference team in 2004 and Leif Sundberg received two honorable mentions in 2010 and 2011. Regardless of what awards might potentially be waiting for Bartels, his 2015 season proves a trend that the goalkeeper play has been a silver lining in 11 playoff-less years.
Bartels became the fifth Bethel goalkeeper in the last 11 seasons to finish top-6 in the conference in save percentage and the ninth Royal to be top-5 in saves. The team as a whole has finished top-5 in saves in all 11 seasons. In fact, the amount of goals allowed by the team has steadily gone down since Bartels’ arrival from 43 in 2013 to 37 in 2014. That number went down to 25 in 2015.
“He has been a big reason for decline the past 2 years,” men’s soccer head coach, Jeremy Iwaszkowiec, said. “He is much more confident and sure of himself this year.”
The next two years will give Bartels a chance to cement himself as one of the best goaltenders to suit up for the navy and vegas, but the experience he has already gained has shown up on the stat sheet, even to the point where he could be considered for All-MIAC or honorable mention status. Both Berg and Sundberg were seniors when they were honored. Even if Bartels doesn’t bring in any hardware this year, he will have a shot to do so as a junior when the team returns to the pitch next fall.