BLAKE LARGENT ‘22 | STAFF WRITER • After finishing the regular season with a 12-3-3 overall record (5-2-2 North Coast Athletic Conference), the Wabash soccer
team earned an entry to the NCAC Tournament for the second- consecutive year after a 1-1 tie with Wooster on Saturday. The Little Giants fell in the first round of last year’s tournament after a thrilling overtime match against the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan, who defeated Wabash 3-2. Head coach Chris Keller spoke on his team’s entry to the playoffs this season.
“I think coming off a great year last year and losing so many good seniors, there were a lot of questions for us,” Keller said. “This is an unbelievable year considering we lost so many guys and some of the turmoil we’ve had with injuries this year. It’s an absolute achievement to make it this far, but our guys want to win it all.”
Wabash took the field against Kenyon (14-1-2, 8-0-1 NCAC), the top seed in the NCAC, on Wednesday amidst cool and rainy conditions. The Lords won the first matchup against the Little Giants earlier this year with a 4-0 win at Fischer Field on October 6.
“The first match was interesting. It was actually zero to zero at halftime,” Keller said of the team’s prior meeting with Kenyon. “They’re one of the top ten teams in the country, but they’re not invincible.” Keller also spoke on the team’s attitude coming into Wednesday’s match.
“They gave us our only loss at Fischer Field all year,” he said. “We were tough at home and proud of that fact, so we want a little bit of revenge. We want to get that victory.”
Kenyon put pressure on Wabash from the start of the match and continually pressured the Little Giants for much of the first half. Kenyon used that pressure to
create the first shot of the match by the Lords’ Bryce Koval with 33:24 remaining in the first half, but Koval was unable to score, missing wide left. Wabash’s first opportunity to score came with 6:34 remaining when Christian Stiverson ’19 sent a free kick towards the direction of Timothy Herring ’22, but Herring was unable to gather the pass amidst a trio of Kenyon defenders. With just nine seconds left in the first half, Wabash looked to score off of another free kick from Stiverson, who sent a bouncing ball towards the goal before a save from Kenyon goalkeeper Ian McInturf kept the score 0-0 at halftime.
In the second half, Wabash immediately pressured Kenyon on the Little Giants’ first offensive possession. After just 14 seconds had gone by in the half, Herring launched a shot but to no avail, as the Kenyon defense was able to stay in front of Herring and block the shot. The Lords responded and began to pressure the Little Giants while controlling possession of the ball. After only five total first half shots, Kenyon produced five shots in just the first nine minutes of play in the second half, but multiple saves by Wabash goalkeeper Chad Wunderlich ’21 and stellar defensive play by the Little Giants held the score at 0-0. With 21:23 remaining in the second half, Corbin Kaiser ’21 looked to give Wabash a 1-0 lead with a shot on the Kenyon goal, but a spectacular save from McInturf kept the match even at 0-0. Kenyon responded late and looked to take a lead with 1:02 remaining in the match when the Lords’ Jack Cohen placed a header towards the top corner of the goal, but another great save from Wunderlich sent the game to overtime with a score of 0-0.
In overtime, both teams went back and forth but neither team could grab a goal, keeping the score at 0-0 and sending the match to a second overtime. Kenyon kept the ball on Wabash’s half for most of he second overtime, but the Little Giants’ defense continued to stop the Lords’ offensive possessions.
Just as the match looked to be going to a penalty kick shootout, a loose ball in the box was corralled by Kenyon’s Bret Lowry, who sent the ball into the left-side of the net and scored the game-winning goal with just a mere one second remaining in the second overtime. With the win, Kenyon increased their overall record to 15-1-2 and will play the winner of Denison and Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday.
After a second-consecutive overtime loss in the NCAC Tournament, Wabash ends the season with an overall record of 12-4- 3 while going 5-3-2 in conference play. The Little Giants will lose four seniors; Stiverson, Jacques Boulais ’19, Max Lawson ’19, and Collin Luckey ’19. “If someone reads the stats and looks at the guys we’re graduating, these guys have worked hard,” Keller said prior to the match. While Wabash is losing four of its seniors, the future remains bright for the team, who will return nine of the team’s 11 starters for next season and look to go to the NCAC Tournament for a third-consecutive year in a row.