The Wabash College soccer team celebrated a big moment when they defeated Franklin College 3-1 Friday, September 1, which marked the 100th victory of Head Soccer Coach Chris Keller.
Keller began coaching for Wabash in 2012, and since then he has won North Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year three times (2014, 2017, 2019). Under his leadership, the Wabash soccer team has finished with a winning record in seven of the last eight seasons. During his time he has coached one All-American: Christian Aleman ’22, as well as 40 All-NCAC players.
After the game against Rose-Hulman, his record stands at 100-68-21 overall (43-33-12 NCAC).
“100 wins was nice,” Keller said. “But the guys are the ones that play and put the ball in the net for the wins. They deserve the credit.”
There’s no better way to start a season than 1-0, and that’s just what Wabash soccer achieved. Heading into their first game, the Little Giants–who have lost many key scorers since last season–needed to answer a few questions about who would be ready to step up.
Jose Escalante ’26 wasted no time offering an answer, which came in the form of a goal just three minutes into the match. He followed it up with a second shot, soaring into the net late in the first half. Continuing his spectacular play, Escalante gave the assist to Jesse Martinez ’26, who scored the third and final goal for the Little Giants 14 minutes into the second half.
Escalante was third in scoring for Wabash last season with five goals. This early boost has bumped his career total to seven goals and two assists. Myles Bernat ’26 also picked up an assist on Escalante’s first goal.
Offensively, the Little Giants were ready to make things happen, overworking Franklin’s goalie by accumulating 16 shots with eight being shots on goal.
On the defensive end, the Little Giants looked tough, holding Franklin to just 12 shots.
“We started well and put them on their heels,” said Keller. “We lacked a little composure after we scored the second goal, but found our rhythm in the second half and iced the result.”
Another area of concern for Wabash before the game was the goalie position. Last season’s loss of Soren Russell and graduation of Michael Bertram ’23 left an open spot with only one returner who had taken on the position during the 2022 season. However, there was a man ready for the job. Between the posts, Fernando Ramos ’25, who saw limited minutes last season, turned away two shots for his first career shutout.
“Fern had a solid game,” Keller said. “He did a good job, and thus far has been the most consistent.”
On Wednesday, September 4, the Little Giants played Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for their second game of the season.
Early on the Fightin’ Engineers took a one-goal lead just under 13 minutes into the first half. The Little Giants, wasting little time in their response, tied the score 1-1. The scarlet jerseys swarmed Escalante as he celebrated his third goal of the season.
The first half finished with a lot of similarities between the two teams in more than just the score. Both teams recorded five shots, two saves, two corner kicks, and six fouls.
However the party didn’t last long into the second half. Just 66 seconds in, a shot found the back of the Engineer net for a Wabash lead. Bryce Kinnaman ’27 scored the goal—the first of his collegiate career, coming off an assist by Escalante.
“It felt relieving.” said Kinnaman. “Coach has put me in great positions to score, and I’m glad I could finally finish one off. I also have to thank Jesse Martinez for not tapping it in and letting it roll over the line for my goal. That’s a real brother!”
During the second half Rose-Hulman’s offense started pushing hard against the Wabash defense. They out-shot the Little Giants 10-5 and eventually found the net to tie the score.
The time ran out with the score tied 2-2.
During the game Wabash saw Rose-Hulman take 15 shots, five of those being shots on goal, to their own nine with four shots on goal. Predictably, after his performance against Franklin, Ramos returned to the net where he produced three saves for Wabash. Despite giving up two goals, his performance was still solid, and staved off an early loss.
While a draw is certainly better than a loss, members of the team felt that they could have found the extra goal they needed to win.
“Rose is a well-organized and well-coached group of guys,” said Andre Aguilera ’25, who took one of the team’s four shots on goal. “Tactically they did what they needed to do and executed their plan well. We definitely felt like the game was ours but those boys fought hard to tie it up. In the end we take a lot of positives from this result and feel confident for our trip to Georgia.”
“Rose-Hulman has a very organized team,” Kinnaman said. “So, we had to be thorough in breaking them down to create chances. There were periods in the game where we had control of the game but didn’t capitalize.”
Although the season is still fresh, it seems safe to say that the team has already found answers to several questions they set out to answer. The team is ready to go and hungry to win, backed with tremendous leaders like Keller and the team’s seniors.
“I think we’ve been very solid and lookin better and better everyday,” said Aguilera. “We have high hopes for the season and have room for improvement, but are very confident and our great senior leaders like Jerry Little [’24] and Hugo Garcia [’24] who know what level we need to be out to contend in this conference.”
One of the biggest takeaways should be that Escalante is ready to step up for the team and serve as lead scorer if that’s what they need from him.
“I have been focused since this summer,” Escalante said. “I want my goals for this season to become a reality and help the team to be at its highest potential. I feel more confident because a year of experience has really helped me analyze my game. Also, coming back and training with the boys makes me realize that I have to step up because we can achieve a lot as a team.”
Looking ahead, the Little Giants will have a packed weekend, as they travel to Mount Berry, GA, to compete in the Berry Invitational. Scheduled to play two games, Wabash will take on Berry College on Saturday, September 9, and Birmingham-Southern College on Sunday, September 10.
The team will, no doubt, be looking to carry the offensive momentum from the first two games into this match, with hopes to replicate the defensive effort of the Franklin game.
Then on Tuesday, September 12, the Little Giants will face-off against Anderson University, here in Crawfordsville for the team’s home opener. The game will begin at 4 p.m. at Fischer Field.