Last year against Washington, on a stifling hot day in which players frequently went to the sidelines for water, Panther all-conference forward Tony Ramandani broke free from the defense and was on his way to a clear fast- break goal.
For a few seconds, there was nobody in Ramandani’s way.
Then Dunlap defender Eric Mauser sprinted from one end of the field to the other, slid at Ramandani’s feet, and kicked the ball loose.
The golden chance at a goal was squandered, and Dunlap went on to shout out the Panthers.
Mauser, the “sweeper” for the Dunlap soccer team who has been an all-conference selection the past two years, is the last line of defense, and his coach, Allan Hansen, said he is one of the best in the area.
“Eric does a great job back there. He has a constant awareness of where he needs to be, and he’s always communicating with the other players to get them in the right position,” Hansen said.
Even though Mauser is one of the top sweepers in the conference, Hansen said he might also use him in other positions this year.
“Eric is an excellent overall player, and he is one of our leaders. He played outside midfield as a freshman, and he can help us, no matter where we put him,” Hansen said. “We’ll see how it goes. We might move him to the midfield, if that gives us a better team on the field.”
Mauser, who started playing soccer when he was in first grade, said he does not mind where he plays, as long as the team wins.
“We didn’t have a great season in conference last year (second place behind Morton), so we want to rebound from that,” he said. “I’ll do anything I can to help us have a better season.”
Mauser said the team is “more focused” this year, and the Eagles have plenty of talented players returning. In fact, he is setting his sights higher than the conference race.
“Win state is always the goal,” he said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”
Dunlap returns all-conference players Jacob Abou-Hanna, Kendrick Boddie, Chase Salazar and goalkeeper Dan Merriman from last year’s team, which won a Regional title before losing to Morton in the Peoria Notre Dame Sectional.
“I’m very excited about this year’s team,” Mauser said. “I think we’ll have a great season.”
Mauser, who received plenty of interest from college soccer coaches, said he will probably not play college soccer next year.
He said he will likely attend Iowa State University and major in engineering.
“I’ve always liked math and physics,” he said. “Iowa State has a good engineering program, and I was impressed with the campus when I went to visit. I might join a club soccer team, but my main focus will be on academics.”
Dunlap opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Morton, the defending conference champions.