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Men’s soccer advances to championship

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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The sixth-seeded men’s soccer team came out victorious in the semifinal round of the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament with a 2-1 win over the third-seeded MidAmerica Nazarene University Pioneers on Wednesday in Olathe. For the second straight season, the Wildcats knocked the Pioneers out of the HAAC tournament in Olathe.

Last season the story was junior Andrew Miller. Miller scored the only goal of his career with the go-ahead point in the 71st minute and then the Baker defense held the Pioneers for the remainder of the game to capture the conference title and a trip to the national tournament.

This time, the story was a combination of junior Austin Shiney and sophomore Keaton Anchors that propelled the Baker win.

On a freezing afternoon in Olathe, temperatures maxed out at 28 degrees with a sharp wind. Shiney put Baker up, 1-0, after just three minutes of play. Shiney took advantage of a missed clearance by the Pioneer defense and the junior midfielder slotted his shot past the Pioneers’ second team all-conference sophomore goalkeeper Yann Passet. This was Shiney’s third goal of the season and first in the conference playoffs.

Baker took advantage of the sharp wind at their backs in the first half to control the game, taking five shots compared to four from the Pioneers. Baker also had three different corner kick opportunities and kept MNU off its attack during the first 45 minutes.

The second half began with MNU capitalizing on its chance with the wind. MNU took eight shots in comparison to Baker’s two in the first 30 minutes of the second half.

The game’s momentum changed significantly in the 74th minute when MNU senior midfielder Niklas Larsson picked up his second yellow card of the afternoon. This penalty came just 13 minutes after his first booking for reckless play, and Larsson was ejected from the game, putting the Pioneers down to 10 men for the final 16 minutes.

Three minutes later, Baker’s persistence on the attack was finally rewarded. Sophomore midfielder Jordan Thacker connected with Anchors who finished with his head for a 2-0 lead with just 14 minutes left to play. This was Anchors’s third goal of the season and, debatably, Baker’s biggest goal of the season.

The celebration and 2-0 lead for Baker did not last long, for MNU wasn’t going down without a fight. The Pioneers went right back into attack and found their chance to cut the deficit in half.

MNU senior midfielder Jelani Jillo beat BU freshman goalkeeper Pat Rydberg from 12 yards out to put his team right back into the game with 13 minutes to play.

But Baker’s back line held strong and fought off the Pioneers’ final two shots and two corner kicks to prevail, 2-1, and advance to the conference championship game for the second consecutive season.

Rydberg made four saves on the afternoon and fought off 15 MNU shots and three corners. Rydberg took over as the full-time goalkeeper in the Wildcats’ second conference game against Culver-Stockton College and since then, the team is 4-2-2. Rydberg has allowed 1.1 goals per game this season.

Senior forward Preston Phillips led the team with three shots, Shiney had two, and Anchors, junior midfielder Shane Hunt and first team all-conference junior defender Amer Didic each took one shot apiece.

The Wildcats will play for the conference title on the road Saturday at fourth-seeded Culver-Stockton. Culver-Stockton defeated First seeded Missouri Valley 4-3 in over time Wednesday night to advance to the finals. Baker defeated Culver-Stockton 2-0 in the regular season on Oct. 11 at Liston Stadium. Saturday’s forecast in Canton, Missouri calls for a 50 percent chance of snow and temperatures in the 20s. A win will clinch a spot in the 2014 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Tournament.<br/>

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