By Oliver DeBarros
The Kenyon men’s soccer team claimed its first-ever NCAC tournament championship last Saturday with a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory against Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) at the Jay Martin Soccer Complex in Delaware, Ohio.
Entering the game, the Battling Bishops were the one team the Lords had faced this season that they had not yet beaten. They also ended Kenyon’s NCAC tournament hopes in each of the past two years.
“We’ve never beaten OWU in my four years here,” defender Cameron Scott ’15 said. “We were all pretty excited to be in the finals, but the prospect of winning the conference against the one team that always seems to get the better of us definitely motivated us even more.”
As the game began, the Lords came out firing and put immediate pressure on the Bishops. For the opening five minutes, the Lords seemed dominant as they pinned OWU back in their own half.
The Bishops would get their chance, however. Just seven minutes into the game, the Bishops were able to break on a counterattack against the run of play. Junior Brian Schaffer ran down the right side of the field and served in a cross. The Bishops’ leading scorer, Colton Bloecher, was waiting in the box and rose up to head in his 15th goal of the season and give OWU a 1-0 lead.
After being caught a bit off-guard, the Lords regrouped and got back to controlling the play. Over the next 20 minutes, the Lords created several chances to score. In the 30th minute, the breakthrough finally came. Nate Petrou ’15 crossed in a corner that Logan Ernst ’15 was able to head across the goal. Woo Jeon ’18 got on the end of Ernst’s pass and headed in the equalizer, just moments after being subbed into the game.
Following the goal, the Battling Bishops took over. For the remainder of the half, the Bishops controlled the majority of the possession.
After regrouping at halftime, the Lords almost found themselves down again. Right off the Lords’ kick-off, OWU sophomore Kyle Baum stole the ball. After running down the field he was fouled outside the box. Bloecher hit the post on the ensuing free kick.
“That was a scary moment for us,” senior defender Grant Carney ’15 said. “Colton is pretty dangerous on free kicks so we were pretty fortunate to see it bounce out after hitting the crossbar. That definitely wasn’t the start to the half that we were looking for.”
The Lords regained their composure following the near goal. The remainder of the second half continued to go back and forth with each team controlling the game at different periods of time.
Regulation couldn’t separate the two teams for the second time this season, and they once again had to try to settle the game in overtime.
As the overtime period began, the Lords started to assert themselves. Once again OWU was pinned in their own half as Kenyon applied constant pressure.
After OWU failed to clear their lines in the seventh minute of the overtime period, Kenyon senior Alex Christoff ’15 fired in a one-time shot. The ball fell to Dalton Eudy ’17, who collected Christoff’s effort, turned, and beat OWU keeper Colin Beemiller for his first goal of the season, the game-winner.
“That may have been one of the most important goals I’ve ever scored,” Eudy said. “It fell to me in a really good spot and after I was able to turn, I just had to beat the keeper. Once I saw it hit the back of the net, I couldn’t wait to start celebrating with the rest of the guys.”
Head Coach Chris Brown also weighed in on the team’s victory. “Winning at OWU is always fun,” Brown said. “I’m happy for the lads to win the tournament; they deserve it. I think that at this point they are all business.”
The Lords must now focus on the NCAA tournament, of which they will host the first- and second- round matches. They look to extend their historic season on Saturday as they take on Heidelberg University (Tiffin, Ohio) at 11 a.m. on Mavec Field.