With only two conference matches remaining in the Baker University men’s soccer regular season, the Wildcats buckled down, played through an injury-plagued two weeks and came away with two victories against Culver-Stockton College and Graceland University.
On Oct. 30, the team traveled the long journey to Canton, Mo., to take on conference competitor Culver-Stockton.
The match would prove one-sided, as junior Tom Lowndes began the onslaught 15 minutes into play.
The goal would be quickly followed by a header from sophomore Nate Byarlay and a deep blast from sophomore Nick Ebmeyer to give the Wildcats an early 3-1 advantage.
“The ball came to me on the roll and I just struck it, and by the time I looked up it was in the top left corner (of the net),” Ebmeyer said.
Baker would go on to win the match 3-1, looking to carry the momentum to Lamoni, Iowa, where the Graceland Yellow Jackets awaited the Wildcats for the season finale.
“Every time we play up there it is full of emotion,” assistant coach Davy Phillips said.
But, the Wildcats responded well to the intense atmosphere of Graceland’s senior night, and in the 35th minute of play, sophomore Odaine Sinclair netted a goal on a pass from freshman Connor Brehm.
“The guys really stepped up for the big game and everyone came out with the will to play and we continue playing well as a team as we go forward,” Sinclair said.
The Baker back line would go on to hold the Yellow Jackets scoreless and the 1-0 final score would signify the end of regular season play for both teams.
“We are so organized and spirited when we defend, its tough for teams to break us down through the run of play,” Phillips said. “The last two weeks is just trying to get into a playoff mentality.”
With the final two victories, Baker improved its record to 6-2-1 in the HAAC, pitting them against rival Benedictine College for the first HAAC Tournament match, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Liston Stadium.
Earlier in the season, the Wildcats were forced to forfeit their 1-0 overtime victory against Benedictine after it was ruled that Sinclair should not have been eligible to play after receiving a red card in a previous game.
The anticipation for a shot at redemption will fuel the team for the first round of playoff soccer.
“By the books, now we haven’t beat Benedictine in six years after [the forfeit],” Phillips said. “Our guys are very anxious to right the wrong and put the win on the right side of things.”