Men’s soccer road to nationals

Story by Kyle Davis

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Wildcats headed to national tournament <strong> Wildcats headed to national tournament </strong> Wildcats headed to national tournament

As No. 5 in the HAAC tournament, all Baker had to do was beat the No. 4, No. 2 and No. 1 teams to win the tournament, get a bid to nationals and keep its season alive.

No problem. The men’s soccer team defeated Graceland University 4-2 Saturday at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in the championship game of the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament.

“We knew from the beginning of the season that we had a really good team and that we could go to the national tournament,” junior Luke Haidarovic said. “At halftime no one panicked. We just knew we could come back, and we knew that we could win the game.”

Baker scored first on a goal by junior Matt Germain in the 16th minute. Graceland then scored the next two goals in the 26th and the 28th minute, both goals by Jeffrey Darkwah. The score remained 2-1 in favor of Graceland at halftime.

Senior Owen Barnhart tied the game at 2-2 in the 55th minute. This was the first goal of Barnhart’s career. Seniors Gerard Grehan and Matt Hodges scored the final two goals of the game to put it out of reach.

Baker and Graceland tied with 12 shots apiece, although the Yellowjackets had more shots on goal, 9-7. The Wildcats had a large lead in the amount of corner kicks with 11 compared to just three from Graceland.

Sophomore Alex Burton recorded seven saves in the victory as the goalie.<br/>"We were finishing those chances we got," sophomore Jacob Chiarelli said. "We did what we had to do to win.""We were finishing those chances we got," sophomore Jacob Chiarelli said. "We did what we had to do to win."
“We were finishing those chances we got,” sophomore Jacob Chiarelli said. “We did what we had to do to win.”

Baker had to get by the No. 1 MidAmerica Nazarene University Pioneers to reach the HAAC championship game. Overtime was needed, but Baker came out on top 3-2 over MidAmerica Nov. 13 in Olathe.

After a scoreless first half, Grehan scored for the Wildcats in the 49th minute to give them the 1-0 lead. The Pioneers answered quickly, scoring two goals, one by Jesse Smith in the 54th minute and a goal by Alec Lemmon in the 58th minute, to take the lead. The game was tied again with a goal by Hodges in the 79th minute.

Junior Kome Okiomah ended the tie game in overtime with the winning goal to put Baker up for good, 3-2.

"We haven't been giving up," Chiarelli said.<br/>Grehan was awarded the HAAC Player of the Week for his performance during the HAAC tournament.Grehan was awarded the HAAC Player of the Week for his performance during the HAAC tournament.
Grehan was awarded the HAAC Player of the Week for his performance during the HAAC tournament.

"I think we need to just keep playing like we are," Burton said.<br/>This is Baker's fourth appearance in the NAIA national championship and the first since 2004.This is Baker's fourth appearance in the NAIA national championship and the first since 2004.
This is Baker’s fourth appearance in the NAIA national championship and the first since 2004.

Burton said he is happy the team came together and will take the seniors to nationals.<br/>The Wildcats will face Park University in the first round at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liston Stadium.The Wildcats will face Park University in the first round at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liston Stadium.
The Wildcats will face Park University in the first round at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liston Stadium.

“We’re playing really well, and hopefully that momentum can take us a lot further,” Haidarovic said.