Graceland handles Baker men’s soccer in Lamoni

Story by Kyle Davis

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Baker was one win away from securing home-field advantage and a first round bye in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament Tuesday but fell to Graceland University 3-1 in Lamoni, Iowa.

However, the Wildcats still are bound for the postseason and will have a shot at winning the conference postseason tournament. Baker finished the regular season 10-6-2 overall and 6-3 in conference play.

"We've lost a couple games recently, but I think it will make us stronger for the playoffs," senior Matt Hodges said.<br/>Graceland is ranked No. 23 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Top 25 Coaches' Poll.Graceland is ranked No. 23 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Top 25 Coaches' Poll.
Graceland is ranked No. 23 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Top 25 Coaches’ Poll.

Graceland struck first, scoring in the 17th minute on a goal by Matt Iverson. Graceland kept the 1-0 lead throughout the first half. The Yellowjackets scored two more times in the second half to make the score 3-0.

“We never really got into the game in the first half,” senior Matt Hamilton said.

Senior Micah Nelson scored the only goal for the Wildcats on a penalty kick in the final minute of the match when junior Luke Haidarovic was taken down in the box.

Baker picked up two yellow cards, one by senior Owen Barnhart in the 56th minute and one by sophomore Blain Snipstal in the 77th minute. Graceland player Brian Loving also received a yellow card in the 84th minute of the match.

The Wildcats and Yellowjackets were close in the number of shots with Graceland barely outshooting Baker 14-13.

Baker will be the fifth seed going into the HAAC tournament and will travel to face fourth-seeded Lindenwood University Tuesday. The winner will face top seeded MidAmerica Nazarene University Thursday.

“I think we can beat any team that’s in the playoffs,” Hodges said.

Lindenwood came away with a 2-1 victory over Baker at North Park when the two teams met earlier in the season Oct. 11. Sophomore Matt Griffin did not play in the first game against Lindenwood due to a red card in the previous game and said he hopes he’s able to make a difference.

Griffin said from a team morale standpoint, he thinks the men know they can beat Lindenwood.

Baker gave MidAmerica Nazarene its only conference loss of the season, beating the Pioneers 3-1 Sept. 30.

“We’ve got to be able to finish,” Griffin said.

Hamilton said the team has got to play 90 minutes and that’s going to be the key.

Baker will have to win the HAAC tournament to make it to the national tournament.