The Baker Orange

2015 men’s soccer preview

Story by Nathalia Barr, Managing Editor

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Overview

The Wildcats are the two-time reigning Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament champions. Winning the tournament last season gave the team an automatic bid into the 2014 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship tournament. The Wildcats had a lot to overcome in the Heart Conference tournament as they were the sixth seed and the final team to qualify. After only losing one senior, Preston Phillips, the team has experience together and hopes the momentum from the end of the 2014 season will carry over. There are a large number of incoming players this year, including 11 freshmen and four transfers.

“Anything less than winning games in the national tournament would be a huge disappointment,” sophomore forward Blake Levine said. In his first season as a Wildcat, Levine contributed six goals, which he hopes to double this season.

Outlook

Senior All-American and team captain Amer Didic had the opportunity to play for Team Canada in the World University Games in Gwangju, Korea. Last season Didic was ranked No. 12 in the NAIA in total game-winning goals. Head coach Nate Houser expects Didic to come back from this experience and be a leader for the team this year. Houser also said senior Robert Hoeven should create many opportunities in the midfield.

Hoeven and junior Spencer Atkin also had a unique opportunity this summer training with Sporting Kansas City. Staying healthy will be important to the team’s success this season. Early last year, several injuries created difficulties for the ‘Cats. However, the team ended the season strong with three consecutive victories on the road in the Heart tournament to capture the second straight tournament championship.

With the Heart being very strong this year, Houser is excited to see the conference match-ups and believes his team is well prepared to take on the competition.

First Games

The Wildcats captured two shutout wins in their season-opening road games. A 2-0 win against Ottawa University gave the team the momentum to defeat Bethany College the following day 2-0. In the first game with Ottawa, freshman Austin Halsey came off the bench and gave Baker the lead, scoring in the 27th minute off of a deflection. In the second half junior Alex Brivik gave the Wildcats some security with another goal in the 76th minute off of an assist from Jordan Thacker.

At Bethany, the scoring was done by seniors. Andrew Meinking put Baker up 1-0 in the 17th minute and Hoeven sealed the deal on Baker’s second victory with a goal in the 56th minute. Over the weekend, Baker outshot its opponents 59-7 in dominating fashion. Sophomore Patrick Rydberg received both shutouts in goal for the ‘Cats.

The next game for the Wildcats is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, in Fremont, Neb., against Midland University.

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