UPLAND, Ind. -- Tuesday was nearly a perfect night for the Indiana Wesleyan University men's soccer team.
Not only did Indiana Wesleyan win the Crossroads League regular season championship but they did so at Grant County rival Taylor (Ind.) University in Upland, Indiana. IWU clinches the regular season title outright with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night with one match still remaining in the league schedule.
"Obviously we are very thrilled with the result," said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Mark Castro. "I'm very proud of our guys for stepping up to the challenge of playing at Taylor on Senior Night with an amped up crowd in a rivalry game. Our guys rose to the challenge."
It is the first Wildcat championship since 2008 when Indiana Wesleyan and Bethel (Ind.) College tied for the Mid-Central College Conference championship and is the first outright league title since 2007. Indiana Wesleyan has now won the regular season championship seven times in program history and for the fourth time under Castro.
"It's pretty special as we won the first ever Crossroads League championship," said Castro. "No one can ever take that away from us. We are excited and now home field advantage for the league tournament."
Indiana Wesleyan (12-1-3, 7-0-1 CL) quickly put themselves in a great position to capture the Crossroads League championship in the early goings Tuesday night. A Taylor penalty in the 18-yard box gave Indiana Wesleyan a penalty kick in the 15th minute of action. Geoff Bowman took the free kick and promptly put it to the back of the net for his sixth goal of the season and a 1-0 Indiana Wesleyan advantage.
"We found some ways to be dangerous," stated Castro. "Josh Schultz played it into Micah Snyder and Micah kept battling into the 18 and was fouled. Geoff Bowman stepped up and we were very confident he would put that ball to the back of the net. That took a little bit of the steam out of Taylor's fans and for their team."
The one goal difference remained through halftime as each team registered five shots in the opening half.
Taylor (8-8-1, 3-4-1 CL) was able to pressure Indiana Wesleyan in the second half but IWU struck in the 85th minute. Keaton Albert led a pass to Corey Lopez for a breakaway opportunity and Lopez finished the deal and beat the Trojan keeper to the left corner for a 2-0 advantage.
"Corey Lopez had a tremendous goal from Keaton Albert," said Castro. "It was our only real opportunity in the second half and Corey scored a really important and really quality goal. It relieved some pressure for us."
The Trojan attack finally broke through in the 89th minute to cut the Wildcat lead in half at 2-1. But the Trojans were unable to fire off another shot as the Wildcats claimed the Grant County rivalry match.
Taylor did outshoot Indiana Wesleyan 13-7 in the contest but IWU freshman goalkeeper Josh Goepper was up to the challenge and made seven saves on eight Taylor shots on goal.
"(Taylor) kept battling in the second half and their work rate seemed to amp up even more," continued Castro. "It was pretty stressful and they created a lot of scoring chances off set pieces. But give credit to our back line and Josh Goepper for defusing any major good looks at the goal."
Indiana Wesleyan finishes the 2012 regular season on Friday at Spring Arbor (Mich.) University. The match begins at 7 p.m. Spring Arbor is currently tied with Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) University for second place in the Crossroads League standings with one game remaining.
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