The Indiana Wesleyan University men’s soccer team won the Crossroads League Tournament Championship Saturday, Nov. 9 with a 2-0 victory over Spring Arbor University. The win secures the team’s first-ever berth in the NAIA National Championship Tournament.
Although the Wildcats won by two goals, it was not an easy game. The Wildcats fought hard for goals and fended off a relentless Cougar offense the entire 90 minutes.
The Cougars and Wildcats kept the game scoreless until 10 seconds before halftime, when Geoff Bowman (sr) sent a long pass to Tyrone Martin (jr) on the left side of the field. Martin evaded one defender and snuck the ball past the goalkeeper from just inside the penalty area.
“Before the goal, the game wasn’t really going our way. But that goal meant they had to be the ones chasing after halftime,” said head coach Mark Castro.
The second half wasn’t any easier. Both teams threatened each other with strong offensive attacks, but neither could find the back of the net.
That is, until nine minutes left in the game.
At that point, Sam Kane (jr) drifted a long cross from just past midfield to Taylor Lehman (so), who redirected the ball into the right corner of the goal, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
The goal sent the crowd into pandemonium, and Lehman was visibly thrilled.
“It was hard to put into words what I felt [after the goal]. It was so exhilarating,” Lehman said.
After that, the Cougars had nothing on the Wildcats’ impenetrable defense, securing the win for IWU.
The Wildcats defenders played solid, but goalkeeper Josh Goepper (so) acted as the backbone of the unit. With about 10 minutes left, Goepper leapt high to snatch a key Spring Arbor corner kick out of the air from several other players.
Goepper commented on the play, “I felt like I had to be stronger than everyone else, and just go up and get it.”
Goepper’s coach was also very happy with his performance.
“Josh was rock-solid back there. I think he caught every single ball cleanly,” said Castro.
The Wildcats will now start preparing for their first NAIA tournament ever. Castro said he plans to put in a bid for IWU to host a first-round matchup. If the team wins in the first round, whether the game is played at Wildcat Field or somewhere else, it will advance to the 16-team tournament in Montgomery, Ala.
“Once we have our first-round matchup, we’ll start putting together a scouting report for them,” Castro said. “We’ve made the tournament, but we hope to take the next step, too.”
Watch below for video highlights of the match: