Men’s soccer season ends in Fresno

Story by Kyle Davis

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It may have been the 50th annual NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, but Tuesday was the first time in school history Baker University had taken the field in the second round of the tournament.

Playing on a wet field due to fog in Fresno, Calif., Westmont College was able to advance, with a win over Baker, to the quarterfinals of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Soccer National Championship.

Baker lost to Westmont 1-0 with the lone goal being a header from Dan Sargent just 7:41 into the match.

“I thought we were the better team, we just didn’t get the result,” senior Matt Hamilton said. “It was really unfortunate.”

The Wildcats had an opportunity with 15 minutes remaining in the match with a series of four corner kicks but was not able to convert.

Baker and Westmont both had 15 shots in the match, with four of Baker’s shots being shots on goal and six shots on goal by Westmont. Junior Kome Okiomah led the team with four shots and one shot on goal.

“We should have scored, no excuses,” junior Matt Germain said.

Eight of the Wildcats’ shots came in the first half and seven in the second, but they were not able to get the equalizer.

“I thought we were too tentative in the first 15 minutes, but we played well and pushed the issue in the second half,” coach Nate Houser said. “Goals that went in the past couple weeks didn’t go in last night.”

Sophomore Alex Burton recorded five saves in the match.

Although the outcome wasn’t what the team would have liked, it was the conclusion to a historic season for the Wildcats.

As the fifth seed in the Heart of America Athletic conference tournament, Baker became HAAC champions after winning three straight road games. The Wildcats started by defeating  Lindenwood University, 2-0, then knocked off conference No. 1 MidAmerica Nazarene University, 3-2, in overtime before beating Graceland University in the championship game, 4-2.

The Wildcats won their first NAIA Soccer National Championship game in school history Nov. 22 against Park University.

Baker’s also faced a tough regular season schedule including playing Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma City and Park universities. All three of these teams made it to the national tournament. The Wildcats also faced the defending national champion Azusa Pacific University, who lost to Westmont in their conference tournament.

Baker finished with a record of 14-7-2.

“It’s a season that has been as successful as any other,” Houser said. “I’m very happy with the guys. They all came together and trusted what we told them. I think it helped them to hear from the coaches that ‘we believe in you.'”