Buoyed by two goals in the first 7:12 of the match, the No.15-ranked Fort Hays State University men’s soccer team continued its strong play during the non-conference slate with a 4-2 victory over Metropolitan State University of Denver on Sunday at FHSU Soccer Stadium.

Santiago Agudelo put FHSU on the board 4:56 into the game on a header and Luis Torres tacked on another goal off a rebound just two minutes and 16 seconds later to help the Tigers set the tone.

“That was a big key for the match to come out early and get goals, and we got two of them really early off set pieces, which is what we want,” FHSU coach Brett Parker said. “We want a fast start to really be able to find our rhythm of the game."

Fort Hays (3-1) pushed its lead to 3-0 when Caden Frank came off the bench to score at the 41:51 mark. Agudelo netted his second goal early in the second half, taking a touch pass from Abdoulaye Cisse and lofting it over the head of Metro State goalie James Tanner.

Parker said the Tigers were able to keep their energy up throughout the game.

“Through the second half when it was 4-0, I thought there was more to come,” Parker said. “I thought our pressure was good and we were creating chances.”

The RoadRunners accounted for the most entraining goal of the game courtesy of Kyle VanAlstine in the 63rd minute. VanAlstine found the net on an acrobatic bicycle kick, prompting the FHSU crowd to give applause to the feat. 

Fort Hays was forced to play the last 25:19 down a man after Mauricio Etcheverry was issued a red card. Metro State’s Julio Corona scored the game’s last goal in the 85th minute.

The Tigers have already been battle-tested, facing two top-five teams in the first four games. FHSU knocked off No. 3 Rockhurst 4-2 on Sept. 2 and lost 2-1 to No. 2 Midwestern State this past Thursday in a neutral site match in Shawnee, Okla.

“There’s a million reasons why we do it,” Parker said of the tough non-conference schedule. “One, we want to test ourselves against the top teams in the country. Two, most of the teams that we can get to play us are the top teams, so we’re kind of stuck with them. But we want to prepare ourselves.

“Our goal, No. 1, is to get into the NCAA Tournament and the way you do that is to play the best teams.”

Parker said he likes the mix of veterans and newcomers for the defending MIAA champs. One of the biggest additions is Agudelo, a junior forward who last played at Richland Community College in Texas.

“It’s a really good blend,” Parker said. “Obviously Santiago Agudelo showed today why we brought him in. He had to sit last year, but he’s as good of forward as there is in the country. We added a transfer from Metro who played today (defender Moritz Walther). He’s been a really good leader for us and a good voice on the field.

“And then we have a ton experience, a couple fifth-year seniors, Tobias Patino, Luis Torres. They’ve played a million big games for us and have been through the trenches. It’s a really veteran team but we do have some newcomers in there that have added a lot.”

FHSU will now embark on a six-match road swing, starting against No. 23 Point Loma at 6:30 p.m. (Central time) in San Diego, Calif.

Parker said he believes the Tigers have a high ceiling.

“A lot of positive signs,” Parker said. “We can see how high our team can go. You can see what the ceiling is. It’s really promising. Obviously it’s early in the year and we have a lot of room for improvement, a lot of things we got to get better at. But right now, where we’re at with the schedule we’ve played, I’m pretty happy.”