Men’s soccer team loses to NAIA defending champions

Story by Kyle Davis

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The Baker men’s soccer team left the plains of Kansas for the beaches of California Sept. 18 to face the defending National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national champions.

Baker lost to the Azusa Pacific University Cougars 3-0 Friday in Laguna Beach, Calif. The game was held at Laguna Beach High School.

“We came out a little flat,” senior Matt Hamilton said. He added the difference in the game was APU finished its chances and Baker did not.

Azusa Pacific, who is receiving votes for the NAIA Top 25, took the lead early, scoring its first goal 12 minutes into the match on a goal by sophomore Alex Earl. Junior Dana Yoshizu notched the second goal for the Cougars just 10 minutes later. A straight red card was issued to Hamilton just before halftime, which led to the final goal of the game on a converted penalty kick by APU senior Jared Karkas.

Head coach Nate Houser said it’s difficult to address everything one needs to work on after a win, but losing exposes more issues.

For the second consecutive game, Baker had to play the majority of the game a man down due to a red card. Junior Luke Haidarovic was on a red card suspension after being sent off in the previous match against Olivet Nazarene University.

“Missing Luke was a big deal,” Houser said. “He is one of our more experienced players.”

Baker also was issued three yellow cards. Sophomore Matt Griffin and senior Matt Hodges were booked in the 33rd and 36th minute, respectively. The bench also received a yellow card in the 71st minute.

The Wildcats left Baldwin City for California at 3 p.m. Sept. 18 and returned home around 3 a.m. Monday. Some of the team’s downtime was spent lounging on the beach and playing beach volleyball. Some people even took surfing lessons.

“I had a great time,” Griffin said. “It was a memorable experience for me.”

The trip also served as a chance for the team to bond.

“The whole trip helped bring the guys together,” Houser said.

The Wildcats, 4-2-1 on the season, have gone 1-2-1 in their last four games after starting the season 3-0. The schedule has been challenging, as the ‘Cats have already played four teams ranked in the Top 25 at some point this season, including a win over then No. 7-ranked Southern Nazarene University on Aug. 30.

Baker played Culver-Stockton College Wednesday, but game coverage was unavailable at presstime. The squad destroyed Culver Stockton in a battle of the Wildcats 5-0. Junior Matt Germain had a hat-trick for Baker while seniors Gerard Grehan and Jon Baldwin knocked home the others.

The team will face Morningside College at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at North Park.