Men’s soccer gets two huge wins

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After starting the GLIAC season 0-2, the SVSU men’s soccer team is back on top of the conference following its seventh straight win.

The Cardinals on Wednesday topped then-conference leader Tiffin 2-1 in dramatic fashion and followed that up with a 1-0 win against championship contender Northwood on Sunday.

Against Tiffin, 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 to 15 minutes and put them under pressure, and I think we did that well,” senior midfielder TJ Stephens said. “We got the (penalty kick) and capitalized off that.”
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 its 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 to 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 the 64th and 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 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 held strong, and the Cardinals ended 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 put SVSU in a tie with Tiffin atop the GLIAC, with both teams having 6-2 conference records. SVSU holds 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 took another step towards a GLIAC championship a few days later, when the Cardinals topped Northwood 1-0. The Cardinals’ rival came back to stun them 3-2 in overtime on Sept. 11, but SVSU got the lead and kept it in Sunday’s rematch.

The teams remained scoreless in the first half, with both sides getting off eight shots, but none were able to find the back of the net. Northwood held the corner kick advantage 6-4 in the first half but only mustered one more for the rest of the contest. The defensive battle went into halftime with the teams deadlocked at zero.

The second half began electrically, as Oluwatobi Oyeleye found Wilson for a Cardinal goal just 15 seconds into the second half of play.

Despite having to hold the lead for the next 44 minutes, the SVSU defense held strong in front of goalkeeper Connor Keane.

“From the start, we knew what we had to do,” Stephens said. “Losing our first GLIAC game of the year at their place put us in an instant hole, and today was our opportunity for revenge. We came out with tons of energy and were all over them. The second half was the same, and Wilson again put it in the back of the net.”

Keane was perfect on all three of Northwood’s shots on goal, as he registered his fourth shutout of the season and his third in the last four games.

“It was a great team effort defensively, and we got the big shutout and huge win,” Stephens said.

The GLIAC standings now appear to be a three horse race between SVSU, Tiffin and Northwood. All three teams have two GLIAC losses, but Northwood’s two conference ties put the Timberwolves behind SVSU and Tiffin.

Following two huge weekend wins, SVSU certainly has the momentum at the top of the conference, but there is still a lot of soccer to be played this season, as SVSU still has seven more regular season games remaining.

One of those is against Tiffin in the second to last game of the season. SVSU also has to go up against Lake Erie, Walsh and Northern Michigan, who all played within one goal of the Cardinals earlier this season.

SVSU will now turn its attention to Findlay, a team that shocked the Cardinals 3-2 in overtime earlier this season. The team will look to not only overcome the earlier defeat, but also extend its winning streak to eight games.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Braddock Field.