The No. 13 SVSU men’s soccer team boosted its record to 7-1-1 over the weekend following shutout wins over Ashland and Davenport at home.
Against Ashland on Friday, Sept. 29, a 14th-minute goal from junior forward Michael Shaikly on an assist from sophomore midfielder Pablo Ortiz proved to be the difference in the 1-0 defensive battle.
“I saw a chance to get in behind, and Ortiz found me perfectly,” Shaikly said. “The ball didn’t sit right, so I lifted it over their center half’s head as he made his recovery run, then just focused on the technique to volley it home.”
It was Shaikly’s fifth goal of the season.
The goal was well deserved, as Saginaw Valley dominated the early stages of the game, earning three corners and taking five shots. Sophomore midfielder Oakley Hanger shot a header that went wide of the net, and junior midfielder Connor Rutz had two shots blocked in the ninth minute. SVSU finally got the goal it deserved on Ortiz’s connection with Shaikly.
“The goal was a great through ball from (Ortiz) and executed with pure class and quality from Shaikly,” head coach Andy Wagstaff said.
The SVSU offense continued to pour on the chances throughout the match, ending with 23 total shots. But it was the defense that secured the victory for the Cardinals. Ashland only got off five shots during the contest, none of which posed any threat to sophomore goalkeeper Connor Keane.
“I was very pleased with the backline and goalkeeper (Friday) as well as the midfielders who put a solid shift in,” Wagstaff said. “Defending starts from the front in soccer, and I was equally happy with the effort put forth by the attacking unit as well.”
Wagstaff noted that junior defenders Josh Logan and Brian Sockow made their starting debuts in the match, and both turned in good performances.
SVSU added 13 shots in the second half, several of which nearly found the net, as Ashland was lucky to keep the Cardinals at just one goal. Shaikly and Rutz each had two shots on goal for the match, while Sockow, Michael Hamilton, Alex Goshen and Hanger all added one.
Even late in the match with Ashland in need of an equalizing goal, the Eagles could only muster an 83rd minute shot from Kieran Paterson that was blocked by the SVSU defense.
“All in all, we’re very happy with (Friday’s) performance,” Ortiz said. “We haven’t had a game where we don’t concede a goal in a while. The week leading up to this match, we worked on our defensive weaknesses, and (Friday) we were very solid, just a bit unlucky in front of goal to not score more.”
Against Davenport, Keane saved all four of the Panthers’ shots on goal as SVSU salvaged a 1-0 win.
In the eighth minute, Hanger found Rutz for the match’s lone goal, and the SVSU defense held for the next 82 minutes.
Davenport did get 13 shots off, but the defense remained strong and earned its second straight clean sheet and fourth overall this season.
SVSU has at least five new players in its starting 11 in every match compared to last year. However, the team once again finds itself at the top of the GLIAC conference heading into next weekend.
“It’s a new, young, but extremely exciting squad of players, and they continue to find ways to win, which is highly encouraging,” Wagstaff said. “There is more talent and quality coming off our bench sometimes than most programs have in their starting group, which is what we’ve always tried to achieve here.”
SVSU has a huge match coming up Wednesday, Oct. 4, as it takes on rival Northwood. The Timberwolves are tied with the Cards atop the GLIAC.
SVSU hosts Northern Michigan on Sunday, Oct. 8, to round out the week’s matches.