MARION, Ind. -- Frigid weather conditions could not slow down Indiana Wesleyan University as they stunned visiting Davenport (Mich.) 5-0 tonight in the 2013 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round at Wildcat Field.
Indiana Wesleyan hosted one of 16 Opening Round matches on Saturday across the country. The 16 winners will now advance to the final site in Montgomery, Alabama on December 2-7.
“This is just something so special,” said Indiana Wesleyan senior Geoff Bowman. “No Indiana Wesleyan team has gone here before. This is an incredible night for our whole team and athletic department.”
The 5-0 win matches a season best for Indiana Wesleyan as they defeated Marian (Ind.) and Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) this season by the same outcome. The 5-0 score ties the worse loss of the season for Davenport who lost 5-0 at No. 6-ranked Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) on September 12. It was only the second time all season a team scored more than two goals on Davenport.
The match was the second between the two programs this season. Davenport won the first one 2-0 on September 7 at Wildcat Field during the IWU Classic. The contest came a day after Indiana Wesleyan defeated then No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Belhaven (Miss.).
The game was played under the lights tonight at Wildcat Field with arctic weather conditions. The temperatures were in the low 20’s with a 10-degree wind chill. Winds were 15-20 MPH throughout the match with light flurries at times.
Indiana Wesleyan chose to play with the wind at their backs in the first half and that became a major factor. The first goal of the night was a testament to that as IWU junior Tyrone Martin fired a seemingly harmless shot from 30-yards out. But the ball bent with the wind and wound up in the far side of the net to give Indiana Wesleyan an early 1-0 lead in the 8th minute.
Besides the first IWU goal, Davenport seemed unaffected by heading straight into the wind as they came out and fired off seven shots with three of them on goal before the match was 15 minutes old. Davenport’s top player, Dzenan Catic, would take the last of those shots right in front of the Indiana Wesleyan net but IWU keeper Josh Goepper made a tremendous save to keep the 1-0 lead at the 15th minute.
“They came out firing on all cylinders early on,” Indiana Wesleyan head coach Mark Castro said about Davenport. “They actually got in and Josh Goepper made a huge save. He saved an almost sure goal for them and that kind of woke us up a little bit and we were able to play out of the defensive push after that and got a little bit of success.”
Shortly after the missed opportunity for Davenport, Martin struck again in the 17th minute off an assist from Geoff Bowman. Martin’s second goal of the night put IWU ahead 2-0.
Ten minutes later off a corner kick situation, Josh Schultz headed home a rebound off the DU keeper and put it to the back of the net as Indiana Wesleyan suddenly led 3-0. And just before halftime Indiana Wesleyan may have scored the goal that broke Davenport for a 4-0 lead in the 44th minute. It was another Bowman corner kick that Evan Young headed in with less than two minutes left in the half.
“Fortunately the wind helped us a lot in the first half which I think was a big factor for us,” said Bowman. “We got two goals off the corner that I was able to serve in and use the wind to my advantage and take their goalie out of it because he’s a short guy. Fortunately we were able to get a head on the ball.”
At intermission, Davenport held an 8-7 advantage in shots but Indiana Wesleyan made more of their opportunities and led 4-0.
“The wind was such a huge factor in the first half,” said Castro. “That went into our decision into picking the wind early on. We put them under pressure and then the chances we did create the guys put them into the back of the net.”
Indiana Wesleyan would tack on another goal early in the second half when Corey Lopez broke through the Davenport defense. After he went wide and got past the keeper, he slotted the ball to the far side of the goal for the 5-0 lead in the 52nd minute.
“We never thought it would be a 5-0 game,” stated Bowman. “To be honest, the whole week we were thinking it would be a battle and maybe grind out a 1-0 victory. The gates opened and the flood came.”
The Panthers never recorded a shot on goal in the second half. The Goepper save on Catic in the 15th minute was the last shot on goal for the Panthers as they did not register one over the final 75:26 of the match.
“I asked them to play with confidence tonight on our home field and they rose to the challenge,” said Castro. “We got the tactics right on how we were going to play and defend and the boys rose to the challenges we placed in front of them. I’m pretty proud of them.”
Indiana Wesleyan wins their first match in the NAIA National Championship on their very first try. They now earn a second match at the final site in Montgomery, Alabama and will play No. 2-seed Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). Lindsey Wilson has won nine national championships and won their Opening Round match today 3-1 over Park (Mo.).
“This win solidifies some belief in this program and these players,” said Castro. “If you come with a game plan and stick to it and believe in ourselves we can do some special things. I still don’t think this team is done yet and we will take it one game at a time. We know Lindsey Wilson is going to be really good but we will do all our scouting reports on them and make a plan on how we want to attack and defend them and hopefully move on to the final eight.”
Be sure to keep up with all the latest news and updates on the schedule as they become available on iwuwildcats.com.