Soccer teams prepare for playoffs

Story by Lauren Bechard

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The Baker University soccer teams will compete in the first round of the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament this weekend. The men’s squad will enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed and the women are ranked fifth in their bracket.

Men’s soccer

Senior Andy Griffin has one word for his team’s game plan heading into the first round: “Win.”

The Baker men’s soccer team will host the No. 6 seed Avila University at 7 p.m. Friday at Liston Stadium.

The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 9 in the country and Griffin is certain the team will defeat the Eagles if they play up to their potential.

“It’s going to be hard fought, but if we play our own game I don’t think it will even be close,” Griffin said. “I think everybody on the team understands how important this game is.”

Griffin says the team has “a lot of anger” toward their opponent after squaring off with them earlier in the season.

Baker took down Avila 2-1 on Oct. 19 on the Wildcats’ home field. It was a close game that ended just seconds before the clock ran out.

Junior Preston Phillips is eager for the first round of the tournament and thinks playing at Liston Stadium will be a confidence boost for the ‘Cats.

“I’m mostly looking forward to seeing how prepared our team is for playoffs and winning in front of the home crowd tonight,” Phillips said.

Griffin is also excited for HAAC tournament play, but realizes this game could mark the end of his collegiate soccer career at BU.

“As a senior, it’s kind of sad to think that it could be my last game at any time,” Griffin said. “We just have to leave it all out on the field tonight.”

Avila enters the tournament with a 1-5-1 conference record while the Baker men’s soccer team finished the regular season with an overall record of 11-5-2 and 5-1-1 in the HAAC.

The winner of Friday’s game will travel to Atchison to take on No. 2 Benedictine at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Women’s soccer

The BU women’s soccer team will take on No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene University in the opening round of the HAAC tournament.

The ‘Cats will hit the road to Olathe on Saturday, where they tied with the Pioneers 0-0 on Oct. 9.

Senior defender Amber Pickering says there was a “lack of responsibility on the field” last time around, and thinks this weekend’s game against MNU will play out differently.

“Players have stepped up and started realizing where we need to start working harder,” Pickering said. “We will be putting more pressure on their defense so we can force them to make mistakes.”

Baker ended its regular season with an overall record of 7-5-6. Both the Wildcats and MNU finished off conference with records of 3-2-2.

Freshman Jessica Hillebert hopes the team will be able to “capitalize on opportunities” and fight hard to get the win.

“We’re really looking forward to redeeming ourselves and proving ourselves because we really want to show all of these teams how good we really can be,” Hillebert said.

The winner of Saturday’s game will make its way to the second round where it will face Benedictine at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.