After starting the GLIAC season 0-2, the SVSU men’s soccer team is back on top of the conference following its sixth straight win, as they topped then conference leader Tiffin 2-1 in dramatic fashion.
Much of the first half was a defensive battle until the 30th minute when SVSU’s leading scorer Matt Wilson split two Tiffin defenders and was pulled down and awarded a penalty kick. Wilson hit the top right corner of the net to put the Cardinals up 1-0.
“We wanted to come out the first 10-15 minutes and put them under pressure and I think we did that well. We got the (penalty kick) and capitalized off that,” senior midfielder TJ Stephens said.
That score that would remain until halftime.
“Getting the first goal in a match of this magnitude is always crucial,” head coach Andy Wagstaff said. “We felt like if we could get ahead and make them chase the game it would certainly be in our favor.”
Tiffin owned the pace at the beginning of the second half and was rewarded with a goal of their own in the 58th minute when Andre Lindell was able to beat the Cardinal defense and equalize the score.
“When they made it 1-1 I still felt OK about things,” Wagstaff said. “We were flat for a 15-20 minute period in the second half and had a slew of injuries during that time, but to get back into the match by playing some better attacking soccer in the last 20 minutes was the main reason why I think we won the game late.”
Much of the rest of the half was spent in the middle of the field with both teams struggling to maintain possession for extended periods of time. SVSU did have several golden opportunities in 64th to 66th minutes of the match, but failed to score. The game would remain tied until the final minutes, when Wilson lined up for an SVSU corner.
The corner was high enough for Pablo Ortiz to head the ball into the back of the net, giving in the Cardinals the lead in the 87th minute of play.
“(Ortiz) played for me at the club level and I knew he was always going to be a top player,” Wagstaff said. “His bravery this season as a freshman has been impressive and to score a header in this manner and win the game was outstanding.”
The defense would hold strong and the Cardinals would end the match victorious.
“The last three minutes were all about keeping the ball and running out the clock,” Stephens said. “It was a huge win for us to continue our winning streak and get back to the top of the GLIAC standings.”
The win puts SVSU in a tie with Tiffin atop the GLIAC, with both teams having 6-2 conference records. SVSU would hold the head-to-head advantage, but the teams will meet again Wednesday, Oct. 26, in a match that could go a long way in deciding this year’s GLIAC champion.
SVSU will now turn its attention to a date with Northwood on Sunday, Oct. 9. The Timberwolves came back to stun SVSU 3-2 in overtime in the first GLIAC match of the season. Northwood currently sits behind SVSU and Tiffin in the standings, but has championship aspirations of its own.
“At the end of the day, the win is huge against a top regional power but we have to refocus for Northwood on Sunday who are once again a very good team,” Wagstaff said. “We lost our first game to them when leading 2-0 which I feel led to a frustrating loss at Findlay.”
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Braddock Field.