Following wins over Davenport and Ashland this past weekend, SVSU needs just a win or a draw on Senior Day against Northwood on Friday, Oct. 27, to win its second straight GLIAC regular season title.
On Friday, Oct. 20, SVSU blanked Davenport 2-0 under the lights on the road. The Cardinals dominated Ashland 4-0 two days later.
Against Davenport, a quiet first half saw the teams go to the locker room knotted at zero. Two first half saves by sophomore goalkeeper Connor Keane kept the Panthers at bay as the SVSU offensive attack had four shots on goal but nothing to show for it in the first half.
“Davenport have a lot of talent and a pedigree of being champions of the NAIA in 2014, so going to their home is a very tough place to play,” head coach Andy Wagstaff said.
Finally, in the second half, SVSU got the break it was looking for. After two more shots on goal from forward Michael Hamilton and midfielder Azaad Liadi, Davenport scored an own goal as SVSU’s Alex Gloshen made a cross deep into the left wing that went off a Panther defender and into the net.
“I feel like the players executed our strategy perfectly well,” Wagstaff said. “We had a lot of good chances but could not seem to score until (Gloshen) delivered a fabulous ball that the Davenport defender steered into his own net.”
The SVSU defense held from there, as Keane made two key saves late in the contest to keep the Cardinals on top. The Cardinals kept the offensive pressure up, as Liadi went on to have four shots on goal for the game. SVSU added the insurance goal it needed in the 89th minute, when Hamilton found freshman midfielder Alberto Teatin on a cross into the middle, and Teatin finished to seal the win for SVSU.
“The late goal was the icing on the cake and certainly a deserving goal for our young Italian,” Wagstaff said. “(Hamilton) held the ball up and managed to slip Teatin in on goal from about 18 yards out. Teatin then shifted it over to his right foot and buried it into the bottom corner.”
For Keane and the SVSU defense, it was SVSU’s sixth clean sheet of the season.
“Overall, it was a very strong performance, and we showed a lot of resilience defensively and then quality in the final third to win the game,” junior forward Michael Shaikly said. “I couldn’t be happier about the work ethic and contribution from every single player.”
Against Ashland, SVSU’s offensive attack was steady throughout the match, racking up 16 shots, nine of which were on goal.
The defense was stiffling once again, holding Ashland to just one shot on goal.
Liadi opened up the scoring for SVSU in the 15th minute, finishing a cross from the right side of the pitch to put the Cardinals up 1-0 early.
Forward Matt Wilson notched his third goal of the season 25 minutes later on an assist from forward Griffin Parks to double the Cardinals lead heading into the half.
Six different Cardinals had at least one shot on goal in the offensive onslaught.
After a quiet start to the second half, midfielder Connor Rutz added to SVSU’s lead on his seventh goal of the season in the 76th minute.
Forward Chris Jacovou rounded out the scoring for the Cardinals with his third goal of the season on an assist from midfielder Jahmall Whittaker to ensure the 4-0 win for SVSU.
Following the weekend, SVSU sits alone atop the GLIAC with a 9-1-1 conference record. Northwood is close behind at 8-1-2 following a tie against Purdue Northwest on Sunday.
If SVSU wins or ties, it will remain atop the GLIAC. However, if Northwood wins, the Timberwolves will jump the Cardinals and finish the year as GLIAC champs.
The teams faced an identical scenario two years ago, when NU stunned the Cardinals to steal the GLIAC title.
“Our main focus at the moment is the league championship,” Shaikly said. “We will continue to prepare correctly both mentally and physically. The team bond we have is special, and we are excited about what we could achieve this year.”
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.