Men’s soccer punches ticket to Florida

Story by Bailey Conklin, Sports Editor

The Baker University men’s soccer team punched its ticket to Delray Beach, Florida, Saturday night with a 2-1 win against Grace College.

The Wildcats will now travel to the final site of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship to face Columbia College in the second round on Nov. 27.

The Wildcats showed dominance in the first half with nine shots, totaling four saves for Grace goalkeeper Kurt Hamlin.

Baker also found numerous opportunities with five corner kicks compared to the Lancers who had zero.

Junior Joe Houlihan was the Wildcat that put Baker up in the first half with a goal. Sophomore Joah Hickel placed a ball in front of the box allowing Houlihan to chip the keeper and give Baker the 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.

Baker maintained its lead through the first half and into the second. In the 53rd minute, junior Steeve Pouna was fouled inside the box, leading to a penalty kick from Heart First Team All-Conference player Blake Levine.

Levine was able to convert the PK, to extend Baker’s lead to 2-0 in the 33rd minute. Houlihan was awarded the assist, his fourth of the season.

Grace applied the pressure in the second half, sensing its first playoff run in 35 years coming to a close inside Liston Stadium.

With 16:38 left in the game, the Lancers earned a penalty kick. Baker goalkeeper Nick Riggle, who stepped in for freshman Alberto Ciroi after 65 minutes in goal, wasn’t able to stop Grace’s attempt, giving the Lancer their lone goal of the night.

The Wildcats worked to keep the Lancers off of the attacking third for the remainder of the match. Grace had a chance with 12 minutes to play, but the shot hit the crossbar, giving Baker a sigh of relief.

The ‘Cats held on to the 2-1 lead for the remainder of the game, earning the victory and their spot on the championship bracket.

The Wildcats now focus on their next task at hand. Baker and Columbia College last met in 2015 in Delray Beach, Florida, for the second round of the championship. The Cougars edged Baker, earning the 2-0 win.