Markgraf’s hat trick leads Knights

NEW ULM – A simple change in position can do a lot of good, especially for Martin Luther College freshman Aaron Markgraf.

Making his debut at the forward position, Markgraf scored three first-half goals to help lead the Knights to a 4-3 victory over Crown College in Upper Midwest Athletic Conference men’s soccer play Saturday. Markgraf entered Saturday’s play with one goal on the season, but the change in position opened things up for him and the Knights offensively.

Michah Koelpin scored the go-ahead goal wiht 11:19 left in the game and the defense held on as the Knights improved to 3-6 overall and 2-2 in UMAC play.

It was Markgraf’s first collegiate hat trick, one day after a performance he wasn’t too happy about.

“It was kind of funny, because [on Friday] I played terrible,” he said.?”I was real exhausted, and today I came in and we knew that we had to get a win. We’ve been slumping for a long time now. I felt good in warm-ups and the energy was there.”

It was kind of a statement game for Markgraf, who is feeling more and more comfortable playing at the college level.

“Almost every game so far when I came off the bench, coach has brought me over and said, ‘you’re getting it, you’re doing good things, but you’re just a touch slow,'” Markgraf said. “I’ve felt that through every game, I’m just a little bit slow. It takes a lot to get used to.”

MLC coach Paul Koelpin wasn’t sure if the position change would be worth trying again, but Markgraf didn’t seem to mind it one bit.

“I enjoy it, I?think I understand the position pretty well,” Markgraf said. “I like center-mid [field] a little more because you get to see more of the ball, but at the college level you gotta have quick touches and you gotta have speed. At the forward position, it’s just a lot about speed and knowing where to be.”

MLC jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to consecutive goals by Markgraf to start the game. His first goal came with 43:10 in the half and he added another less than 30 seconds later.

Crown cut into the lead with 26:49 left after a shot by Eric Strohbeen bounced off the chest of MLC goalkeeper Eric Hahn and went into the net.

But Markgraf completed the hat trick when he scored about a minute later as MLC led 3-1 at that point.

The Storm got back-to-back goals late to tie the game at 3, which is where it stayed at halftime.

The Knights missed out on several chances to score in the second half until Koelpin’s header on a corner kick with 11:19 left in the game.

“That was a design play for him to come in on,” coach Koelpin said.?”He obviously has a lot of size and height and if that corner kick is put in the right spot, there’s not a lot of other people that are going to get to that.”

Assists on the goals came from Isaiah Horn, Stephen Roekle, David Roekle and Koelpin. Koelpin’s game winner was his second of the season.

The Knights get back into action on Friday when they host Northland and St. Scholastica on Saturday.

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